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?



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