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2008’s big issue?

Written By: - Date published: 12:47 pm, November 2nd, 2007 - 41 comments
Categories: rumour, workers' rights - Tags: ,

An interesting piece in yesterday’s Molesworth and Featherston (off line):

Labour will pick a fight over workplace law reform. Trevor Mallard is in there to promote a message of ‘higher wages through better industrial law’ along with a scare campaign that says National will cut pay and conditions.

Now we’ve been saying work rights are a fertile campaigning ground for the Labour Party for some time but we were honestly taken by surprise when Mallard was given the position. To have a brawler like Mallard (no pun intended) fronting this makes sense. As we’ve said before this is a big issue over the ditch and it looks like unions here are gearing up for a serious fight.

However, (at the risk of sounding tautological) the real issue is that work rights are a real issue. By that I mean that even though they’ve been off the political menu for the last few elections work rights are more relevant to the day to day life of most New Zealanders than nearly any other policy.

Why? Because it’s work that pays for most people to feed and cloth themselves and have a life. In politics thats called a kitchen table issue and that’s what Labour needs. Add to that the fact that National hasn’t got a leg to stand on in this area and you can see why Labour might want to push this issue. As Peter Conway has said in Tane’s post below National is trying to make the income issue a tax issue – when our incomes are 30% behind Australia’s that’s absurd.

41 comments on “2008’s big issue? ”

  1. Robinsod 1

    Given the fact that the Tory’s front row is still so nineties they’re gonna have a hard time inoculating this.

  2. LFC 2

    I noticed this weekend’s Labour conference is called “Working for the Future”. A hint perhaps?

  3. Sam Dixon 3

    “scare campaign that says National will cut pay and conditions”

    scare campaign?

    We only need to look at the stats, histroy, and Natioanl’s statements to see its true.

    Under National, wages rose more slowly, especially for those on low incomes.

    Work rights were reduced by the ECA, they privisted ACC and were going to make the 3rd week of annual leave saleable.

    And still they constantly go on about reducing ‘labour costs’, 80% of which in New Zealand is wages. They know they have no policy to raise wages, that’s why they have to try to bribe us with tax cuts instead.

    But is a tax cut worth a pay cut from National?

  4. insider 4

    Sounds more like they have run out of ideas and are doing the equivalent of John Howard and his ‘dancing cossacks’ attack on Aus Labour, raising a shibboleth that only exists in a few fevered imaginations stuck in 70s/80s.

    Most people work in non unionised workplaces where the market sets rates, and those rates have been rising. It’d be a hard ask to seriously suggest that those rates will be clawed back somehow given the skills shortages every employment consultant I;ve met talks about. Skilled employees will walk either to competitors or to Aus if people try. I don’t see this argument getting traction.

    The biggest threat to the blue collar Labour voters is surely offshoring, and that is something Labour is not going to touch.

    What it might signal is some significant vote buying of low income people is going to happen to get them out to vote – Milke Williams on radio said today a high turn out favours Labour and the electoral campaign should aim at getting people out to vote.

    That of course raises the EFB – govt advertising not being subject to it – and the prospect of increasingly partial advertising. Like it or not Labour now has a documented history of ignoring the advice of the electoral authorities when self interest is threatened.

  5. dancer 5

    i like the language that gets used by the right “workplace flexibility” sounds so much more gentle than “taking your rights away”. and my favorite quote on from Mr Key on this topic is something he said back in the election campaign in 2005 (before his innoculation was in full swing) when he said the Employment Relations Act (ERA), including sick pay provisions for workers would be under review. Key: “Flexible labour markets are the way to go”. That should be something for Mr Mallard to pursue the real meaning of….

  6. Leftie 6

    If the unions are taken away and the unemployment rate goes up, there isn’t much pressure on wages and conditions at all.

    The trouble with many employment contracts in New Zealand is they have clauses that refer to Acts (Holidays Act etc.). It only takes one government that is “worker unfriendly” to change a particular Act and overnight thousands of workers would be out of pocket.
    For example, the National Party proposed changing the Holidays Act last election to ensure that employers didnt have to pay overtime when workers were off work (sick, domestic, bereavement, and public holidays).

    http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=4224

    This is just one example of the risk to workers under the National Party. How much would a tax cut be worth to a worker then?

  7. Santa Claws 7

    OK, so scare campaigns are OK when run by Labour, but not when run by anyone else. Yup – noted.

    Leftie – you mean this

    “Change the definition of “relevant daily pay” to ensure it does not pay more to be sick than to work”

    Doesn’t seem unreasonable to me – why be rewarded for being off work. Certainly doesn’t seem to promote the concept of productivity.

  8. Santa Claws 8

    Robespierre – given that the Labour front row is so 80’s it makes we wonder whether they don’t pray to Roger Douglas every night.

    Helen Clark – elected 1981, PM since 1999
    Michael Cullen – elected 1981
    Jim Anderton – elected 1984
    Phil Goff – elected 1981
    Annette King – elected 1984
    Pete Hodgson – elected 1990
    Parekura Horomia – elected 1999
    Chris Carter – elected 1993 (but dumped from 96-99)

  9. Santa Claws 9

    Insider – good point. I wonder how Labour is helping these folks:

    “In the last two months, hundreds of redundancies have been announced at outdoor clothing company Norsewear, Cadbury, chair maker La-Z-Boy, plumbing supplies manufacturer Dux Industries, printer Wickliffe, and Fisher & Paykel Appliances.”

    I guess working for families won’t be much use if you are unemployed in Norsewood eh?

  10. Sam Dixon 10

    The relevant daily pay ensures people are paid what they would usuly earn if they had worked, including overtime which is a large portion of a lot of lower income workers’ wages.. National wanted to take that away.

    insider – its well documented that unions not only force up wages for members but have a halo effect on other workers. You say that conditions and wages wouldn’t worsen even if legislation on work rights was weakened becuase the market would hold them in place, yet recently introduced improvements hadn’t already been intorduced by the market when they wer legislated for: that’s wny busienss had to be dragged along kicking and screaming when the minimum wage goes up, parental leave was introduced, and 4 weeks annual leave came in. The market hadn’t naturally put the those things in, why do you think they would survive without legislation?

  11. Santa Claws 11

    Sambo – oddly many in NZ already got 4 weeks leave and pay above the minimum wage. Can’t have been the market working though, right?

    Also good to see that you support the Labour-promoted entitlement society model.

    “I would of got that IF I HAD BEEN AT WORK. I wasn’t but I WANT IT ANYWAY”

    More on jobs, want to guess who I’m quoting?

    “The Government needs to understand that the incentives from other countries to entice New Zealand manufacturers are significant, and we need to do more as a country to encourage investment in high-end manufacturing. A quarter of a million Kiwi workers and their families are relying on it.”

  12. Robinsod 12

    Hey Santa – the bulk of people didn’t get four weeks and those that did got it by being unionised. Ask the union what they think of the nat’s labour laws.

  13. Leftie 13

    “Doesn’t seem unreasonable to me – why be rewarded for being off work. Certainly doesn’t seem to promote the concept of productivity.”

    Santa Claws – The employer shouldn’t have to pay sick pay at all should they? Oh and the inconvenience of having to pay them at least $11.25 an hour when some of that could go to the shareholders.

    Is it productive for me to go to work when I am sick, spread my germs to other workers resulting in my coworkers taking time off and leaving the workplace short of workers? When people get sick it’s out of their hands.

    Anyway it’s not just about sick days. Why should I lose my overtime when by law I must attend Jury service?

  14. gobsmacked 14

    Perhaps Santa, or some other rightie, could tell us which National policy, and which National spokesperson (if any) they agree with on the issue of paid parental leave. You’ve got several to choose from.

  15. Leftie 15

    Go on Santa, show us just how much you care about New Zealand workers.
    They don’t have a life outside of work do they? Or more the point they shouldn’t have a life outside of work?

  16. Leftie 16

    Offshoring
    Hmmm odd how this appears to be happening in places all over the world, irrespective of the type of government. Yup its even happening in the grand old USA.

  17. insider 17

    Sam/Robinsod

    Well I have had four weeks leave since I came back from overseas 10 years ago and wasn’t in a union. All the time I was in a union before that I got only 3 weeks.

    I’ve worked in a range of large corps, some national some international. All offered 4 weeks and maternity, paternity leave well above the legal requirements, super scehme, health benefits. I now get more than 4 weeks. That was offered to me as standard not something I negotiated.

    I think employers have been leading the way on this, mainly larger ones. I accept life is probably quite different in smaller businesses and legislation pushes them along.

  18. Leftie 18

    Insider

    Not sure what type of work you do but you will be benefitting from low unemployment (thankyou Labour) and unions setting benchmarks, which have a positive spinoff for you.

  19. burt 19

    I think 2008’s biggest news will be blogs falling to idle banter about rugby scores and the weather as the owners don’t want to print their full names and residential address on every piece of political commentary.

    That and Dr. Cullen digging deep into the vast surplus to throw a few cents of tax cut crumbs to the working class scabs.

  20. Bede 20

    “Unions setting benchmarks”? For spiteful behaviour? Donations to the Labour Party? Record industrial action? Get real.

  21. burt 21

    leftie

    Not sure what type of work you do but you will be benefitting from low unemployment (thankyou Labour) and unions setting benchmarks, which have a positive spinoff for you.

    Yes – the unions set benchmarks on the donation of members fees to a political party. A little bit like the EB wanted to do for National but National didn’t allow it’s self to be so influenced by big money.

  22. Leftie 22

    Yeah Burt and as you know unions do it openly, proudly, and transparently.
    Exclusive Brethren cult religion try to hide it. Why do they try to hide it? You would think they would openly support their party.
    Round and round we go.

  23. Leftie 23

    “Unions setting benchmarks”? For spiteful behaviour? Donations to the Labour Party? Record industrial action? Get real.”

    Bede: What, you expect unions to donate to the National Party instead? The same party that wants to screw New Zealand workers at the same time pretending to be their champion?

    Record industrial action? Prove it. You want to compare the Employment Contract Act with the Employment Relations Act do you?

    Not sure what you mean by spiteful behaviour, are you referring to some employers? Elaborate and I will respond.

    The reality is there are a lot more workers in New Zealand than there are employers.

  24. burt 24

    Sam Dixon

    They know they have no policy to raise wages, that’s why they have to try to bribe us with tax cuts instead.

    Yes the Labour party are going to bribe their way through another election. I guess if the bribes don’t work then they will simply punch our anybody who disagrees with them.

    You guys must be squirming desperately trying to find ways to defend the indefensible as the socialists go into self destruct mode to maintain power at any price.

  25. Robinsod 25

    Burt – you’re back. Have you taken your ritalin? I hope so ‘cos you’re gonna have to stay focused on your trolling for another three years at this rate.

  26. Santa Claws 26

    Robespierre – taking a break from KB I see. I hope you will mark down on your timecard that you also spent time defending Labour’s honour over here on a Sunday? – do you get double time on weekends or something?

    And I see you’ve been touting your favourite bed-time picture again – but you didn’t link to it this time. Has Charles been on to you or something?

    “Unions setting benchmarks”? For spiteful behaviour?” – no, for internecine fighting and assault!

  27. gobsmacked 27

    Santa, still waiting for your answer to my question above. Or indeed, any information at all about National’s policy. Feel free to educate us dumb lefties.

  28. Robinsod 28

    Hey Tony claws – That’s right bro – I’m on the 9th floor right now and I’m looking in your SiS file and… Oh my god you didn’t, with a reindeer too?? I mean I’ve seen some perverse shit in my time but TC? That takes the cake! Fuck off.

  29. Santa Claws 29

    Gobshite – Keep waiting – why would I speak for National – they have people for that. Better just wait for our hosts to come up with a few more lies. How about some information on Labours tax bribe from you?

    Robespierre – Thats pretty tame. Have you been advising on the Iti case too? Maybe thats why its a mess. Better try harder to muster something original next time.

  30. burt 30

    Roninsod

    Are you going to be voting for a party that offers tax cuts in 2008? Or will you be helping Dr. Cullen to quietly drown Helen Clark?

  31. Leftie 31

    Bribe the voters, bribe the voters. National wants the next election, what do they do? Yeah you guessed it they bribe the voters. Politics in a nutshell.
    Voters at the end of the day will focus on the real issues.

  32. burt 32

    Leftie

    So when Labour offer election bribes (in the form of tax cuts we can suddenly afford in an election year) it’s just politics and the voters will focus on the real issues. When National promote tax cuts it’s blatant vote buying and to be denigrated with great vigor?

  33. Leftie 33

    Burt
    Of course it’s blatant vote buying. National won’t win the next election if they declare they will put the minimum adult pay rate down to five dollars per hour will they?
    The point is Burt all political parties do it, so what?

  34. Santa Claws 34

    Burt, Robespierre doesn’t vote. If it wasn’t for the fact that he needs to use a computer to post here, I’d think he might be one of the dreaded ExB.

    Leftie – more lies as usual. Of course WFF isn’t a bribe? What about interest free student loans? Seems to me that Helen had the countries wallet well open and showering money on potential voters last election, but I guess thats OK with you?

  35. Leftie 35

    Santa, oh please, stop making out like your team are perfect. If it was a National Government they would bribe the voters at election time.

    Do you get working for families money? What about a student loan, do you have one of those?

    If I’m a liar then you are a poor judge of character.

    Bribe me politicians, bribe me.

  36. steve23 36

    When a thug like Mallard says that he will be fighting for something it is time for timid people like me to back away.
    Trev’s message is that it is okay to smack the “bejesus” out of somebody if they annoy you.
    And the Mount Albert sex kitten thinks he is real good.

  37. Robinsod (moderator) 37

    Steve – “Mount Albert sex kitten”? I think this shows an unhealthy obsession with Mallard’s sex life. Are you like 14?

  38. Phil 38

    Random thought for the day;

    The argument from the Left (or at least thestandard.org) on workplace rights hinges on one crucial element; “employers are evil”.

    In reality, however, the vast majority are not self-serving slave-driving scumbags. Yes, there will always be the odd bad apple employers, just as there will always be bad apple employees, bad apple politicians, bad apple unionists, bad apple financial advisers, bad apple police officers, bad apple taxi drivers…

    I think the question really needs to be; what is the appropriate level of employee protection, from which we insulate against the bad-apples on BOTH sides of workplace relations, while at the same time ensuring that those workplaces already working together successfuly are not negatively hindered in their markets?

    Neither major party is addressing that question; they prefer to slug it out with their own brands of fear and paranoia

  39. Robinsod 39

    Phil – while there are many good employers there are also many small employers who are willfully ignorant of their employee’s right (and don’t tell me it’s too hard for them because employment law is significantly more simple than tax law and we expect business people ot deal with that) there are also a lot of very large employers who are not evil but are certainly amoral in pursuit of increased profit growth. They exploit New Zealand workers not because it gives them some evil rush but because they see labour only as a cost to be kept down in what ever way it can be. I would also point out that many good employers are rewarded though higher productivity. But all too often the eye is on the next quarter’s profit rather than the long term health of the company.

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  • Speech to the Asia New Zealand Foundation
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