A year ago the nats announced massive changes to employment law. And then they went quiet. Now with a new Minister of Labour they’ve decided it’s time to move.
There’s a lot of nasty stuff in the package Simon Bridges tried to sneak in yesterday, but the worst is the change that allows employers to refuse to bargain with workers’ chosen representatives. As I pointed out when this assault on working Kiwis first reared its ugly head:
Make no mistake, that’s a rule that will allow employers to simply walk away from negotiations. No need to surface bargain. No need to draw things out. Just say “we’re not having a collective agreement here” and that’s it.
John Key is claiming it won’t affect “the vast bulk” of New Zealanders. And, aside from the 360,000 New Zealanders in unions, it won’t. Directly.
But the thing is, union deals drag everyone’s wages up. It’s not just the hundreds of thousands of non-union members on union sites that get to enjoy union-cut deals either – the reason people get paid what they do at (non-union) TV3 is because they’re have to stay competitive with (unionised) TVNZ in the wage market. The reason people get paid what they do at non-union mills and factories is because they need to keep their wages close to the wages paid at union mills and factories. And middle-class people with degrees get paid what they do because public sector unions make sure those qualifications maintain their value. Unionised Kiwi workers are constantly pulling other Kiwi workers up with them.
National understands this. They realise if you keep unions down you keep down the wages of everyone else too.
That’s why they’re undermining the laws that require employers to act in good faith and thus reducing the bargaining power of union members.
The choice couldn’t be starker. Two weeks ago we saw Labour and the Greens introduced NZ Power, a policy that puts Kiwis ahead corporate interests, and now National has announced far right changes to employment law that takes power from working Kiwis and puts it squarely in the hands of big business. And make no mistake – where the power goes, the money follows.
We’ve seen NZ Power. The Nats have answered with NZ Dis-empower.