Contractors aren’t workers?

Andrew Little, rather than simply apologising to NBR reporter David Cohen for the lengthy non-payment of his $950 invoice and moving on, seems dedicated to providing Patrick Gower with more ammunition.

On 3News last night, Mr Little attempted to amend Gower’s terminology:

“Your commentary talked about a worker. He [David Cohen] was a contractor.”

Unfortunately, Cohen had exchanged numerous emails with Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, during his attempt to get paid, and at one point Mr McCarten had written:

“I’ll make it a priority. Every worker must be paid for work they are asked to do.”

When confronted with this by Gower, Little accepted that if it was okay for McCarten to refer to Cohen as a worker, it was also okay for Gower to do so.

Presumably, Little was concerned that use of the word “worker” might imply to the public that Cohen had been a Labour staffer who hadn’t been paid, as opposed to a one-off contractor. Nonetheless, it was a baffling piece of semantics, given that the first definition of “worker” in my dictionary is:

A person who works; one who works well or in a specified way.

As a former union boss, Mr Little will be well-versed in the distinctions between different types of workers – employees v contractors, for instance – but to try and paint a freelance contractor as someone who is not a worker seemed like a hiding to nothing. For a leader who, late last year, was bellowing “Cut the crap!” at John Key, this ill-considered linguistic smokescreen looked decidedly mealymouthed.

It was a line that Mr Little surely hadn’t thought through before he said it. If he had thought it through, he would have realised that it jarred rather uncomfortably against the idea that the Labour Party is supposedly there for all workers, not just the ones who belong to unions and have employment contracts.

Once again this week, Andrew Little has unnecessarily shot himself in the foot.




  1. It’s pretty clear it wasn’t Andrew Litle who fell down. Its also pretty clear that Matt McCarten wasn’t the person to address this bill and it was a volunteer who worked on AL campaign.

    I run my own business. there are always late payer,especially over xmas. Is it o.k.? Well no it’s a pain. Is it part of being in business? Fraid so.
    No on seems to have raised the complete lack of professionalism by Cohen. I would never publicize unpaid accounts. I am not even in pr.

    1. Sure, but it’s clear from the email trail that Matt McCarten took on the job of ensuring the invoice was paid. The fact that the bill then continued to not get paid is a bit of indictment on McCarten and others in Little’s circle.

      And yes, part of being in business is the time-consuming, pain-in-the-ass job of chasing up invoices. But this wasn’t just a Xmas period oversight – this was a full 4 months of non-payment.

      Politically-speaking, however small or large Little’s role in the non-payment was, he should simply have apologised, said that something obviously went wrong with the systems, and moved on. He’s been digging himself a hole that he didn’t need to dig…

      Certainly though, anyone would surely pause before hiring Cohen in future for private jobs. His NBR piece about the saga was certainly … indiscrete. Mind you, it did result in him finally getting paid… A Pyrrhic victory?

      1. Little can’ afford to apologise. He really, really can’t. Remember what happened to Cunliffe when he apologized> Get what I mean.

        Just unprofessional of Cohen. No other way of seeing it. I have chased people up for non payment over some months. I stay patient, polite and persist. It works.

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