Maybe the union boss is just a poor employer?

Andrew Little has massive staffing issues.

Rob Hosking at NBR reports:

Perhaps Labour Party leader Andrew Little is one of those employers who can’t get locals to do the hard work for him.

They won’t do the difficult jobs, they want too much money, and they take drugs.

How else to explain the Labour Party’s inability to attract good staff?

How indeed? Are we to seriously believe that the heads of various affliate unions have no interest in being the Chief of Staff? No comms staff at various unions want to work for Andrew Little?

Seriously, though, the exodus of staff from the Labour Party’s office is causing quite a bit of comment but I think a lot of the comment misses the point.

Normally, who gets what job in Wellington is only of minimal interest, apart from a few jobs such as prime minister, minister of finance, Reserve Bank governor, leader of the opposition, etcetera,

At least, that is, for the most well-grounded readers of NBR ONLINE.

But the run of exit interviews Labour Party leader Andrew Little is being forced to undertake is causing much busy speculation.  

Fuelling this is Labour’s clear defensiveness about the biggest exit – that of chief of staff Matt McCarten to run the Labour Party’s campaign in Auckland.

This isn’t a demotion, it makes a lot of sense given Mr McCarten’s particular skill set and the importance of Auckland, and why are people making such a big deal of this? Is the general tenor of the occasionally rather querulous justifications for the move being run by Labour Party people.

And, in fact, as far as the McCarten move goes, they are quite right. Mr McCarten is, without question, more of a campaign supremo than a back-office chief of staff. He cut his political teeth running Auckland-based campaigns for Jim Anderton and then went on to run the Unite Union in that city and there is no doubt the next election will be won and lost mostly amongst Auckland’s aspirational voters.

From a staffing point of view, deploying Mr McCarten in Auckland looks like one of the smarter moves the Labour Party has made in recent times.

Except who leaves the job that could lead, with an unlikely election victory, to being Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister?

And if that were the only thing happening, the Labour Party’s current staffing problems would not be causing eyebrows to be raised.

However, it is not the only thing.

And that tongue-in-cheek start to this piece partly makes the point.

Yes, it doesn’t look good for the main opposition party to have so many people leaving all at once within a year of the general election. As well as Mr McCarten leaving his chair in Wellington empty, the position of chief press secretary has been vacant since May and two other press secretaries – both of them long-serving are also now leaving.

The teasing observation has been made that clearly these people do not expect to be working for ministers in a year’s time and they have given up hope of being part of a government.

That may be true. Alternatively, they may have other things going on in their lives which makes them seek a less fraught work environment than a political office in an election year.

No one wants to work in opposition forever.

But, again, that misses the most important point here.

Labour has been talking about someone to set up and run an Auckland campaign office since the start of the year. There is the distinct impression it was unable to find anyone suitable to run it which is why Mr McCarten is going there.

The most important point of all is not that people are leaving.  That does happen a year or so out from an election in most political parties as people decide that – often for their own reasons – they don’t want to be part of the intense chaos of another election.

The most telling thing is the inability to fill these positions when they become vacant. The empty chief press secretary desk is like a tolling bell of disaster for the Labour Party.

Ambitious and bright people would be falling over themselves to fill that position if they believed there was a chance of being chief press secretary to a prime minister in a year’s time.

It is well-nigh incredible that this has not happened.

Whether Mr McCarten’s role will be filled quickly or whether, again, his seat will remain empty like a silent omen of doom is going to be watched very closely.

Will no one work for Andrew Little?

Perhaps the union boss is just a bad employer?



  • Sally

    I read today that Little called McCarten new job as “outreach” . When asked what the difference between that and campaigning which can’t be paid by the taxpayer Little said McCarten won’t be doing party business but other people in the office will be.

    Yea right. If McCarten is a campaigning supremo why is he just doing the “outreach” job.

    • kayaker

      A Google search shows all manner of meanings for the word “outreach” as it applies to work, particularly the work of politics. I think Angry is treading a fine line that can only end in tears. What’s the bet next week, he does a reversal when he realises he’s in the margin of error on this one.

  • dumbshit

    When they rearrange seating on TV 1, there could be staunch lefties looking for a job. Not sure they’d be willing to work for the nickel on offer.

    • OneTrack

      Even so, Corrin will have already submitted his CV.

      • dumbshit

        I had forgotten about him, there’s a left hand thread if you’ve never seen one! They seem to ooze out of every crack in the joint!

  • RoboRob

    When you are short on cash you don’t want to run out and replace people immediately. Imagine how much lower the wage bill is. Although moving McCarton to a tax payer funded role is offensive. All parties need to stop this rubbish. Unfortunately if the rules are never enforced what incentive is there for change.

    • Sally

      I believe the COS role McCarten has was paid by the taxpayer. So he is moving from one taxpayer’s job to another.

  • shykiwibloke

    Has Labour advertised the jobs at the local unemployment office? Angry is claiming today there are plenty of Kiwis wanting to work – so he has the perfect opportunity to put his money where his mouth is!
    Or is that the elephant in the room – no money?

    • kayaker

      If he can’t find a Kiwi to do the job, maybe Angy needs to import a foreign worker – the very type of worker who he’s threatening to cancel the visas of…. if he gets into power, that is. Perish the thought.

  • cows4me

    What a marvelous post, the rats are abandoning the sinking ship and even the sea lice don’t want a piece of what’s left.

  • Curly1952

    “The most telling thing is the inability to fill these positions when they become vacant. The empty chief press secretary desk is like a tolling bell of disaster for the Labour Party.”
    After hearing his rant on Larry Williams radio show about giving job opportunities to NZers, wouldn’t it be karma if Little had to employ foreigners to fill the these Labour roles?

  • Geordie

    Little is dancing on a pin with McCarten and you would have to question whether the rest of his staff don’t want to be there for the fall out.

    Labour leader Andrew Little says his adviser Matt McCarten’s taxpayer-funded salary is within the rules because McCarten will be doing “outreach” work for Little rather than campaign work.

    McCarten is leaving his job as Little’s chief of staff to head a new Auckland office for Little as part of Little’s election year strategy.

    That office was on a lease taken out by the Labour Party but Little’s Parliamentary budget was paying for some of it at market rates under a sublease agreement. STUFF

  • Huia

    I’m sorry, but, why on earth would anyone want to voluntarily start employment on the Titanic when they can already spot the iceberg in the distance, it is never going to be a long and illustrious career.
    Labour have tied themselves to the Greens who would go out of their way to save the iceberg and to hell with the Titanic and all who sail in her, so there is no stability there.
    I would rather stake my chips on a house of cards, at least it would have a chance of standing for a short while.

  • David

    Little would be terrible to work under. He has anger issues and is unduly negative. I can imagine him ranting and raving at staff and throwing his toys out of the cot on a regular basis. No one can work under these conditions for long.

  • Abjv

    There is an alternative explanation. To be the PM’s chief of staff or press secretary, your boss has to be the PM. It could be the realisation that the only path to Treasury benches in 2017 is with NZ First and the Greens. Winston would insist on being PM and the Greens out of it or no deal, and the Greens would have the choice of taking one for the team or the arrangement falling apart and having a National government. In which case, all of these support staff are working towards a Labour deputy PM-ship which has a lot less appeal.

    I don’t see Winston having similar issues attracting staff. It may also explain Kevin Hague’s recent move; no place at the cabinet table for a Green in that arrangement.

    Being a poor employer hasn’t stopped people working for politicians before.