Uncertainty around the future of the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter affects workers employed both directly and indirectly on site, as well as those in the wider labour market affected by a shift in economic activity.
The closure of large employers can lead to long-term harm to workers and communities if efforts are not made to support those affected. The effects of major industrial closures in the 1980s, both in New Zealand and overseas, can be felt to this day. Minimising worker disruption while maximising the opportunities to move into good, new jobs must be at the heart of the just transition.
Southland needs to retain skilled workers employed at NZAS and in downstream industries to seize emerging opportunities. Creating pathways into new jobs, through an effective and responsive training and education system, and ensuring workers remain connected to the workforce are crucial to delivering a just transition for workers.
Murihiku Regeneration has been tasked with leading the Worker Transitions workstream. This work stream is an integral part of the Just Transitions process. We will do this in a way that aligns with the Murihiku Regeneration Te Ara Aukati Kore (pathways without barriers) key priority work stream.
The Terms of Reference for the Worker Transitions working group states the purpose as:
Workers, their families (whānau), existing and new businesses are supported through the transition. Local capacity and talent is developed to meet the needs of new industries in a way that emphasises life affirming decent work located in the context of people’s capacity to live their life well.
The working group’s plan captured the following indicative foci:
This work stream will explore alignment with the Te Ara Aukati Kore work stream (led by MRC) to meet the needs of both current and future workers across Murihiku/Southland.
Interface with Murihiku Regeneration Te Ara Aukati Kore Workstream – which has a focus on ensuring whānau develop the capability needed to make the most of the post-Smelter/Covid pandemic environment (note - these intersect but also will have different focal points).
Green energy hydrogen-based new industry capability needs.
Pathway planning and ensuring that education and training emphasise broad life aspirations (capability) and is not reduced to a simplistic notion of ‘skills for work’.
Defining decent life affirming work as aligned to national and international frameworks for decent work.
Ensure worker and whānau voice is central to proposals outlined.