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A few brief points about the attacks on workers

Written By: - Date published: 12:21 pm, July 25th, 2010 - 86 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags: ,

Having just watched the q + a interview with Council of Trade Unions President Helen Kelly and Alasdair Thompson from the EPMA (a must-watch, Kelly did a great job) I think there are a few things that need to be said:

  • It won’t be union members that bear the brunt of these law-changes as they generally have the power to negotiate above the legal minimum standard. Which is why they get better pay rises, better leave provisions and better sick pay than non-union workers.
  • The unions will probably grow stronger on the sites they already organise as non-union workers join up for protection.
  • It is therefore wrong to suggest this as a “good old-fashioned stoush” between unions and the National party. Rather it is an attack on workers that will disproportionately affect non-unionised workers.
  • Darien Fenton is wrong to agree with John Armstrong by citing 1991 – in 1991 unions were compulsory organisations that had a terrible public image (these two things were very much related). Today unions are seen as the good guys by all but the crazy right; the anger and force of the protest last weekend sent a signal that something is very wrong with these laws.
  • IMHO the union movement needs to be a bit less paranoid about how it is seen by the public. Over the last decade they have had the moral high-ground and the public’s sympathy in dispute after dispute after dispute. This has built them a lot of political capital. Now they need to spend some.

But back to the interview itself, I think the fact the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, refused to front is that the Nats know they can’t win the argument on facts. As an example every “problem” Thompson put up could easily be answered under the current law. He simply couldn’t give an answer that remotely justifies removing rights from every Kiwi worker.

I almost felt sorry for him having to front with such an embarrassingly weak argument but then I remembered the businesses who pay his salary are in line to take hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars out of the pockets of their workers under these laws.

I guess that kind of a pay-off is worth making a dick of yourself on national television.

86 comments on “A few brief points about the attacks on workers ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    I think you actually need to spend time with real people and not the people you current co-habit with. Because if you really think Unions in this country are seen by ordinary New Zealanders as the good guys, you are sorely mistaken. That doesn’t mean New Zealanders see Unions in a negative light either. Rather for most New Zealanders, unions are irrelevant.

    As you are mistaken about the protest that took place last week. That did not send a signal to ordinary New Zealanders that there was something wrong with these laws (ordinary New Zealanders who vote Labour and National will come to a conclusion of those laws on their own and will weight them up with other opinions on party policy and leadership abilities etc etc when casting their vote in 2011. Many of whom I’d argue make political choices on rather petty points anyway). What it signaled was how crazy many union members actually are and why for most New Zealanders joining an union will never happen because for the majority of New Zealanders they don’t see the benefit in doing so nor see much in common with Union Leaders and the typical union crowd.

    I also don’t think Unions have much political capital. Unions are too tied to the Labour Party and makes them as a political grouping have easy access to the Labour Party but typically bad access to the National Party. Yes they’re able to get themselves in the media etc and their views are often used in any political story. But that political capital is not attached to most New Zealanders. If that was the case NZealand would be in a position when National could never govern. The fact National is in a good position politically and will remain in a good position politically in 2011 makes your argument rather wrong.

    • IrishBill 1.1

      I think you actually need to spend time with real people and not the people you current co-habit with.

      My wife won’t be very happy being told she’s not real.

      I think you might need to reassess your social circle there ginge, as the popular view of unions is very much in line with my assessment. I know this because I’ve seen the research that’s been done on it.

      I also know this because union members are the “ordinary people” you’re talking about, unless of course you think that union members are somehow abnormal?

      But feel free to keep spouting your tory lines. It just shows how out of touch you are.

      • gingercrush 1.1.1

        If you really think you’re right then Labour will win the 2011 General Election. The fact they won’t and at this stage don’t even look close to doing so shows you to be entirely and utterly wrong. You don’t have evidence that shows New Zealanders see Unions in a shining light. If that was the case I would have thought Labour would have passed a much stronger Employment Relations Act and much stronger labour laws overall during their time in government. Also if Unions were in such a shining light there would be no way for National to even try and make such changes to current labour laws.

        And of course Union members are ordinary people just as small business owners are ordinary people. Hell even large numbers of management people in this country are ordinary.

        Union leaders are however not normal and they will not win this war.

        • IrishBill

          And if you were right National would have won in 2005 when they were more upfront about this sort of behaviour.

          You should also consider the fact that union leaders are elected by union members. Do believe that union members would vote for people they didn’t think would represent them?

          I never claimed unions were a shining light, I claimed they are regarded favourably by most New Zealanders and I’ve seen research that shows just that.

          I’d also bet that the Nat’s have done their own research and found the same attitude which is probably why they have stopped fronting on this issue.

          But like I said, keep it up. The crazy right-wing comments we get here do a good job of showing people how the Nats really talk when all the stage-managing is peeled back.

          • gingercrush

            And if you were right National would have won in 2005 when they were more upfront about this sort of behaviour.

            They nearly bloody did. National was within 2% of taking government. Therefore, I think its very pathetic of anyone to try and deny that in New Zealand there are large numbers of New Zealanders who are quite happy to see some very right-wing policies in this country. Its why the budget passed this year has not seen support flooding back to Labour and its why when this passes there is going to be little or no change in what support each party gets. I’d also argue this cuts both ways and that right-wing bloggers such as No Minister,Slater, Kiwiblog etc etc were constantly wrong when it came to Labour and the Greens and things such as Climate Change, Anti-smacking etc etc etc.

            When it comes to Wilkinson, The Nation said they’ve tried numerous times this year to get Wilkinson on the show and response has been no. Suggesting probably Wilkinson will not be a minister for much longer. I also half agree with you in that the response National will be getting is very mixed. Hell I’d even argue with you that more than 50% of New Zealanders will potentially disagree with these Labour law changes but that National will still be the only major party able to govern in 2011 (though I’m betting more are with National than the Unions/Labour/Greens position). But Union opposition to certain laws doesn’t mean New Zealanders will be offside with them. I’d also argue organisations such as Federated Farmers and Business NZ have either the same amount of support Unions have if not more (Federated Farmers in particular).

            Also the crazy left-wing comments such as Key as a sociopath and the pathetic murmurings that take place on this blog by various authors and commentators also show how utterly out of touch many here are on nearly every position they take.

            • McFlock

              Ah, the right wing problem with democracy again.

              Losing by 2% is still losing.

              The fact is that when national lied about their government objectives, they won the election. When they told the truth, they lost.

            • felix

              gc the only reason you think it’s crazy to describe the traits of people like Key as sociopathic is that you don’t know what the word means.

  2. Fisiani 2

    Employing a worker who has a great cv and references and who interviews well but who then turns out to be substandard or have personality issues that upset their fellow workers will now be able to be quickly told that they dont fit the team and let go. This will save the comany perhaps $10,000-$100,000 or more in outrageous claims. 4 out of 5 new cometent employees will be unaffected. . This will be a great welcome to the team and may actually offer the worker a chance to choose to upgrade their skills or choose to learn how to be a better team player in future. Employer fear of the cost of inadvertently getting 1 in 5 hires wrong will become a thing of the past. This is regarded as a great employment opportunity for workers by all reasonable people. It is hardly an attack on workers. That is laughable. It is a popular and probably vote winning move by a competent government that is visibly rescuing New Zealand and improving our prospects month by month.

    • Lazy Susan 2.1

      “will now be able to be quickly told that they dont fit the team and let go”

      Don’t you mean “fired” – “let go” implies the worker is allowed to leave – nice try but this pseudo-babble doesn’t wash.

      The point is that if the worker doesn’t perform they can be fired under current legislation – a due process has to be followed though and the worker has to be told what they are doing wrong.

      “This is regarded as a great employment opportunity for workers by all reasonable people”

      When did you assume the position of chief spokesperson for “all reasonable people” Fisiani. Do they all know that you’re their representative?

    • Kevin Welsh 2.2

      Employing a worker who has a great cv and references and who interviews well but who then turns out to be substandard or have personality issues that upset their fellow workers will now be able to be quickly told that they dont fit the team and let go.

      Cuts both ways Fisi. I know from personal experience and through two very good friends of mine, where we have accepted jobs in other cities (an in one case they came from the UK to NZ), only to find that the job description was different to the job we were then expected to do. You may argue that there are legal options available, but when you work in a realtively small industry, the last thing you want to do is get branded a trouble maker.

    • Cnr Joe 2.3

      Fisiani says ‘vote winning move by a competent government that is visibly rescuing New Zealand’.
      Completely unreasonable statement by the Fizz there -can we get rid of him/her before the 90 days? as the Arch Beacon of Reason.

      • felix 2.3.1

        I like the way you think Cnr Joe.

        How about Lynn puts every commenter here on a trial period whereby you can be permanently banned at any time for no reason during your first 90 days?

        Of course if you’re a good commenter who adds value to the site then you have nothing to worry about, eh?

        • Pascal's bookie


          Also, and too, I think it’s only reasonable that if a commenter’s ass is getting kicked, as it were, and they all of a sudden find someplace else to be, that the commenter should front with a note from the doctor to explain the sudden absence.

        • lprent

          Cruel. Accurate.

          At present comments from new emails require approval for at least one comment before they get out of moderatiin We tend to kill first time comments that look like they are trolls – at least until they learn to write a reasonable comment. I file the lusers under spam. Think of it as learning to write a legible CV.

          The main reason is that it helps to eliminate people who like to jump identities every other message.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.4

      But Fisiani, neither you nor anyone in NACT are reasonable as they’re ideologically blind and probably psychopathic.

  3. Bill 3

    I see you’ve inadvertently poked that same old nest with that big stick of yours, IB.

    What is it with the same old buzzy drone from the right every time a post pertaining to the dignity and worth of workers goes up around here?

    • IrishBill 3.1

      Because they don’t like workers. Apparently they’re not even “real people” (a position that goes a long way to explaining why New Zealand’s management class are such poor performers).

  4. Sanctuary 4

    I work with a real, genuine, 100% Helen hating, child thrashing, tea party lovin’, conspiracy theorist (he real does believe NASA faked the moon landings) Papakura fundy, and even he can’t see why national are proposing these new laws.

    Now, we would be more likely to see the rapture than see him vote for those faggot loving lefties in Labour (he would be Labour triple plus) – but he is already talking about staying at home in 2011.

    John Key is popular because he stands for nothing except a particularly banal consumerist “aspiration”, so everyone can project whatever they want onto him. His government is popular because it practices probably the most cynical PR strategy ever seen – relying on the 24 hour news cycle amnesia of our headless chicken media to conceal the fact that the emporer has no clothes. Once an issue like mining comes along that they can’t control with a 24 hour cycle of ‘lie and wave’ from John Key and threats and cajoling from Jeremy Eade their popularity plunges.

    All the unions have to do is keep exposing the chocolate soldiers that make up everyone outside the triumvirate of middle aged white men that make all the decisions in National.

  5. Bill 5

    So the post suggests that these new labour laws are not about employers against unions? I agree. These laws are primarily against non-unionised workers.

    Are there any Collective Agreements that have a 90 day trial period written in? Are there likely to be?

    ( The answer is ‘No.’)

    Well, since new workers are covered by the applicable Collective Agreement for the first 30 days of employment, the opportunity exists for unions to use the 60 days of utter vulnerability as an incentive to join the union.

    And while unions still have the opportunity of access, they should be employing people to get out there on the biggest bloody recruitment drive NZ has seen and initiating bargaining for Collective Agreements everywhere…sod the – “Oh, but that site is too small and inefficient to maintain.”

    Or don’t initiate for a Collective Agreement, but to join a MECA….less work and less hassle for organisers to fit a workforce into a pre existing document.

    Honestly, how difficult can it be?

    Or is it just too easy to do the wringing of the hands and the throwing up of the arms routine?

  6. Rharn 6

    I sometimes wonder how many anti union people are climate change deniers and vice versa.

    The rhetoric that comes from both groups is uncannily the same.

  7. Reality Check 7

    I don’t know what Q+A you were watching…but Helen Kelly got crucified. She was made out to be a crazy/over the top/blow things out of proportion Unionist thanks to the idiot sitting next to her and the guy running the interview (Mr Holmes). What is worse is that Matt McCarten then came out and said that he agrees with the changes to the grievance laws….this is just after Helen Kelly said that they were wrong.

    To top it all off, the only “examples” that Helen could give were from OVERSEAS! A point that Paul Holmes picked up on.

    This was NOT a good day for Helen and the union moves to try and take this by the horns and stop it from happening.

    Very disappointed. 🙁

    • Puddleglum 7.1

      Reality Check, if that was Helen Kelly being “crucified” then, please, someone crucify me, repeatedly, every time I get into a serious political debate. She had complete command of the issues, facts at her finger tips, never missed an obfuscation by Holmes or Thompson, made very clear, hard-hitting points and showed real compassion for the people she represents. If, as you imply, that’s generally seen as being ‘crazy’ and ‘over the top’ then that’s a real indictment of the formica-like superficiality of most people’s grasp of reasoned discussion and debate.

      Alasdair Thompson, by contrast, relied on unsupported assertions and, presumably, the hope that people who support Key can ‘see no evil’ when it comes to his government’s actions.

      • Reality Check 7.1.1

        Sorry Puddleglum. She was not winning that one. they were destroying her. and her only “facts” she had were for America and India!!

        And, as i stated, Matt McCarten contradicited her on one of the things she “objected” to. IF we can’t even get our unions to agree how can there be a united front on this?

        Labour have practically left this debate as well. they have made one or two lame comments and then said nothing since. In fact even Goff has not said ALL of it is that bad, plus Labours own litlle group who investigated the 90 day law said that it was having some positive effects, which is why they are staying away from too much debate because they know that Nats will use the Labour Party results to shoot them down.

        There is no real united front on this from Labour and the Unions (unions cant even get their stories straight) so how is this ever going to be won when things are so messed up?

        I think that you will find that no amount of protest will change the Nats mind on this one.

        Unfortunately the Over the Top protest action that happened on the sunday when they “broke through” the police lines didnt do any favours for the union movements fight against this (once again, something that even Goff agreed wasnt helpful).

        I notice that Helen Kelly made it very clear she had nothing to do with the protest that “broke” police lines. she made it clear they had left before then. This once again shows no united approach by the unions.

        • Puddleglum

          While I have no particular reason to be a cheerleader for Helen Kelly (other than your take on her interview, that I find completely mystifying) I have to report that she has yet again been ‘crucified’ and ‘destroyed’ – in your terms – on Checkpoint (Nat Rad) tonight.

          That is, she continued with a consistent message about how the proposed changes assumed workers were untrustworthy while all employers were paragons of reasonableness who would never pursue their own self-interest in employment relations.

          She also maintained an impressively articulate clarity of expression and stayed consistently ‘on message’ while responding intelligently to the questions. In fact she successfully shifted the interview from concern over the ‘process’ of consultation between John Key and the CTU (that Mary Wilson wanted to highlight because it had elements of ‘personal conflict’, which of course are neither here nor there) and back on to the nature of the proposals and their effects on New Zealanders. I’ve been interviewed on radio and know it takes a degree of comfort and knowledge in the area you’re being questioned about to put in that kind of performance.

          Reality Check, I don’t think we’re going to agree on this. I saw Helen Kelly in the Q&A interview provide facts about what happens with these regimes, facts about the actual nature of the proposals (that both Holmes and Thompson glossed and misrepresented), facts about workers who had come to the notice of (NZ) unions, facts about commitments from John Key, etc., etc.. Yet you say she had no facts. Similarly, you say she came over as ‘crazy’ where all I saw was intelligent competence, remarkable calmness and focus and a mastery of detail.

          I’m at a loss to explain why you had the reaction you did. The ‘Reality’ appears, at best, incredibly selective while the ‘Check’ seems absent.

  8. Olwyn 8

    One astonishing report was an editorial in the dom post claiming that the change was a “correction” and that things “had swung too far” in the workers’ favour. Unbelievable! We have a low-wage, high cost economy. For this reason, governments cannot afford to take GST off food, or give a substantial tax-free threshold, because if they did they would collect bugger-all tax and they know it! Too few people are paid enough to either consume widely beyond food or contribute a great deal of tax if $10,000 of their income went untaxed. The status quo will never be in the worker’s favour so long as a living wage is not the bottom line.

    • loota 8.1

      Too few people are paid enough to either consume widely beyond food…

      Surely that’s what credit cards and HP/lease agreements are for.

  9. Bob Stanforth 9

    Are there any reliable figures on just how many employees have been unfairly dismissed under the existing rules, or is this a case of a falling sky?

    • Bill 9.1

      That would be the thing about unaccountable actions Bob. No figures.

      You think the absence of figures means there has been no action taken of the ‘no need to account for what you’ve done’ variety?

      Are you really that simple and/or disingenuous?

      • Bob Stanforth 9.1.1

        Tell you what Bill, keep your puerile insults to yourself, try and have a grown up conversation without throwing insults – you might get something from it. You do understand that people can disagree without resorting to calling names, and merely arguing the facts – do you?

        Ask anyone in business – such as me – if this makes a difference, and the vast majority will tell you – it really does. Ive taken on 2 as a direct result, and both are still with me, valued and valuable members of the team – and I would not otherwise have taken the risk, employing and removing useless slack bastards was too damned difficult. Think about it for a second. It would cost me in the region of $20K to onboard an employee, plus training costs and downtime once they join – probably $30K to $40K all up. Do you really think an employer who is half smart would willingly throw that away?

        Go to a Doctor and tell them you think you might be sick, and display or not be able to enunciate any symptoms, wonder what would happen.

        If its such a problem, if its causing such issues, then why the hell are those issues not being crowed from the rooftop. For me, its for a number of potential reasons:

        1. There is no problem

        2. There is a problem, but its so minor it doesnt figure

        3. The problem is large, and the media dont give a shit

        4. The problem is large, and the unions and the media dont give a shit.

        Is it 3 or 4? I strongly doubt it. If there was 1 case that highlighted how draconian these laws were, it would have been shouted from the rooftops, you know that as well as I do.

        Where is it? Where is that 1 case, or even 10? If you cannot enunciate the outcome, there IS no outcome. Merely spouting conjecture on what MIGHT happen doesnt make something wrong or bad unless it happens – and from what I see, it isnt.

        But feel free to either call me names again, or prove me wrong. But the former will merely serve to highlight the paucity of your argument, and maybe even reflect on you, who knows huh?

        • felix

          Can you tell me where you saw the figures for “number of people scared to challenge their boss, change jobs, express themselves freely at work”?

          You must have seen some figures on these metrics to claim that there’s no problem. I’d love to see them.

        • McFlock

          funnily enough, if you go to a doctor and claim that your problem can be cured by a magic herb that a few of your mates swear by – I wonder what would happen.

          Especially if the “problem” is probably actually something that you caused through your own negligence and against best practise recommendations- hiring staff without the ability to competently manage their performance. In that case the doctor would probably be inclined towards saying “solve the cause, and the hokum treatment won’t be needed”.

        • Ed

          Have the changes already been made? I thought they had been announced but had still to go through parliament. If I am right have you employed 2 people since the announcement, Bob, on the basis that you expect the legislation to change? Would they be Bill and Mary Smith by any chance?

        • Bill

          Number 5, Bob. Number 5.

          There is no need for the employer to account for any firing, therefore there is no record.

          There is no avenue whereby a fired employee can seek to hold the employer to account, therefore there is no record.

          Which all means what Bob? That there is no record of people fired within the first 90 days of employment.

          Okay, so how’s about you give me the numbers for the people who ate steak and onion pie for lunch on their first day of work? We can assume there are such people, yes? And the mere fact that there is no record of such occurrences is inconsequential by your reckoning.

          So what’re the numbers?

    • felix 9.2

      More of a sinking lid than a falling sky Bob.

      • Bob Stanforth 9.2.1

        And I say (ask) again – how so? Facts? I refer you to my reasoned and reasonable response to Bob’s infantile attack – any smart employer knows that removing staff costs money, and they will do all they can to avoid it, end of story, be they McDonalds or my company, or even Telecom. Its not worth it, purely from a financial perspective.

        • felix

          Those costs you refer to Bob, the hiring and training and such – how are they reduced under the new law?

          ‘Cos if they’re not your point falls right there son.

          • jbanks

            The costs of removing a bad worker I guess.

            • felix

              That’s not what he said though banksie. It was this:

              Ask anyone in business such as me if this makes a difference, and the vast majority will tell you it really does. Ive taken on 2 as a direct result, and both are still with me, valued and valuable members of the team and I would not otherwise have taken the risk, employing and removing useless slack bastards was too damned difficult. Think about it for a second. It would cost me in the region of $20K to onboard an employee, plus training costs and downtime once they join probably $30K to $40K all up. Do you really think an employer who is half smart would willingly throw that away?

              He’s saying the costs of hiring and training are the handbrake on firing people willy nilly, not the cost of firing them. And that’s the same under the new law and the old one.

              He’s saying that the new law somehow encouraged him to hire 2 people and yet he’s simultaneously saying that he wouldn’t let them go anyway as it cost so much to hire them.

              So what was it about the new law that caused him to hire 2 people “as a direct result”? Apparently nothing to do with being able to fire them, according to Bob’s own words.

              All I’m pointing out, banksie, is that Bob’s story – endearing as it may be – is in no way an argument in favour of the 90 day law at all.

              • jbanks

                “So what was it about the new law that caused him to hire 2 people “as a direct result’?”

                If a bad worker can be fired earlier ie when the investment is lower, and the cost of firing becomes nothing – then the overall financial risk of hiring someone is less.

                • felix

                  That may well be your argument, but it wasn’t Bob’s.

                  He seems to be trying to dress his story up as your argument but he utterly contradicts it himself when he says that the money he’s already invested in the employees is the motivation to keep them on, not the costs of firing them.

                  I think he just got carried away making up a story and forgot what point he was trying to make.

        • Bill

          “I (Bob Stanforth) refer you to my reasoned and reasonable response to Bob’s infantile attack..”

          Stop beating yourself up there, Bob.

          oh dear. anti-spam – voices

    • Draco T Bastard 9.3

      No there isn’t because NACT ensured that there wouldn’t be any to dispute what they say.

  10. Rosy 10

    IMHO the only change with the proposed employment legislation is that it removes an obligation on the employer to be communicative and reasonable. hmmm…

  11. infused 11

    All this shows is how out of touch you really are. Unions killed the last work place I was at. Push and pushing wages up, which was nice for the workers, but it got stupid. They were in manufacturing, low skilled workers on $30+ an hour.

    In 2001, the company pulled the plug. Just wasn’t worth producing here anymore. You can say it wasn’t the union that killed it, but being higher up there, I can tell you this is the truth. When you have a staff of 650+, that’s a lot of money.

    The shit the union was spinning was unreal. The union members were telling the union to back off, didn’t happen.

    Unions DO have a negative view among people. Like Ginger said, you need to speak to some unbiased people other than your wife and see the reaction you get.

    These laws are great. About time, long overdue.

    Oh the other thing about this fantastic Union? The company actually expanded 3yrs earlier. They hired new employees. The union didn’t fight for these guys. As long as they protected current workers (allowing them not to work weekends or be subject to the new work schedule) they didn’t give a shit. So all the new guys started on $15k less a year.

    • loota 11.1

      What tall tales infused, NZ unions have understood for a long time now that businesses need to be successes to give their members secure jobs and fair pay, and not only that you are saying that the union ignored the wishes of the members who were on site.


      I was involved in NZ manufacturing for years and I am not aware of any site in 2001 where low skilled workers were being paid $30+ an hour as their basic rate, let alone a work site with 650 of them on those wages.

      Name the company Mr ‘Higher Up’.

      • IrishBill 11.1.1

        Quite a lot of unionised manufacturing has shut down over the last few decades but mostly it was monetarism creating an artificially high dollar here and protectionism in other countries that were to blame although work being shifted to low-wage economies also helps. Perhaps infused thinks we should set minimum wage at $2 a day?

        Come to think of it a lot of ununionised manufacturing have also shut down. Have a guess which set of workers generally got better redundancy payments and better retraining.

  12. Darien 12

    I think you should have another look at my post :

    You say : “It is therefore wrong to suggest this as a “good old-fashioned stoush’ between unions and the National party. Rather it is an attack on workers that will disproportionately affect non-unionised workers.” I agree.
    I say : “Labour has to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of workers who aren’t in unions, who don’t get why everyone is so upset about the proposed labour law changes, and who have no experience of the 1990’s.” – by that I mean the 80% of workers who aren’t in unions.

    Yes, unions might be less hated than they were in the early 1990’s, but they are not so loved that we don’t need to think about how we reach into a whole range of workplaces, industries and occupations that have no frigging idea of what this argument is about.

    I don’t disagree about your analysis of compulsory union membership in the 1990’s, but whatever happened, workers got screwed and I don’t want to see that happen ever again.

    Irish; you know where I come from on these issues – so the most important thing is how we win. Not who’s right, not who’s staunchest, not who got it right or wrong in the 1990’s, or the 2000’s as I’ve been seeing on some blogs.

    We need unions to battle, and we need to go broader than that, as the CTU itself has acknowledged. And it must be a political campaign.

    • IrishBill 12.1

      Darien, I agree with you that the labour movement needs to reach out to non-union workers but I disagree that that precludes the kind of protest seen last weekend. Kiwis aren’t a bunch of vicar’s wives ready to get all squeamish over a little protest, and they know that if union members are that angry there’s likely to be good cause.

      John Armstrong just bought into the “rent-a-mob” spin that the nats were firing around that day (like he buys into most of their spin). I happen to know that there was at least one unite member on the front-line that day who had lost her job under the 90-day law. If there was any failure that day it was not getting her in front of the tv cameras to tell her story.

      Anyway, long story short I have a great deal of respect for what you do Darien (and I think if TS had a polly of the year you’d be it) but I can’t agree with you that Armstrong’s analysis is accurate.

      • Bill 12.1.1

        You might have to get the vicars wives on side too depending on the numbers. So the trick is to not alienate anyone through having only one string to your bow.

        Do the storming of Sky City or whatever the fuck. But do not allow anyone who is doing that or anything else for that matter, to claim that they speak for everyone who is against the fire at will legislation, ’cause that’s One Stringville.

        Neither the vicars wife, nor the angry unionist nor the labour politician is in and of themselves a legitimate all encompassing voice. They are all legitimate. But not all encompassing. And as soon as any one of them seeks to assume the mantle of being the rightful and authoritative voice of the protest, they should be shot down.

        Many people with many voices make for a movement and democracy and vitality. Many people with one voice make for a pointless mockery of democracy and stultification.

        • Puddleglum


          Move – and encourage – all sorts of people to act, and to act in their own, public way. That’s the best way to resist the framing that it’s only ‘the usual suspects’/ ‘rent-a-mob’, etc.. This is also what distinguishes broad social movements from ‘astroturf’ organisations.

          Those sympathetic to a cause might usefully use coordination and may need some ‘facilitation’, but they don’t need a single spokesperson. That invites resentment if the spokesperson says something in a way that some sympathisers might not want it put.

          And don’t get tempted to install one ‘fronting voice’ by the fact that journalists like it easy and want one contact to complete that two minute news item. Make it obvious that there are many people saying many variations on the same theme. If they have to have an 8-second bite from three people rather than a 20-second bite from one, that’s all to the good. It’s not what is said, it’s what is shown (i.e., the variety of support for something) that viewers/listeners will pick up.

          [I noticed that Helen Kelly wasn’t drawn into the question about John Minto, Matt McCarten et al. storming the venue. Her response (paraphrased): ‘Our protest finished outside Sky City at 11:00am. You’ll have to ask Matt about what went on after that. I wasn’t there.’ i.e., Multiple voices.]

          This approach also makes the counter-response much harder for your opposition to formulate without alienating people who they might want/hope/expect to have on their side or, at least, don’t want to put off-side.

          • Bill

            The media don’t inform and fewer and fewer people put any store by what they say anyway. As time goes on I find myself drawn more and more to the idea of dispensing with playing the media altogether. They don’t talk to us or the people we want to or should be be talking to. So why bother?

            Wouldn’t it be nice then if at the next rally, instead of some coterie of jokers taking the stage/micro-phone/loud hailer or whatever like so many jumped up little Mussolinis and talking at people very loudly in such a way that nobody can talk with anyone, we took the preaching at thing out of the proceedings altogether and had people simply talk to one another as people would normally do?

            On the few (too few!) occasions where I’ve seen this being allowed to happen, people get to feel involved and have control over their developing political thought process because they are actually engaged rather than being bystanders to somebody else’s pantomime.

            And from people engaging in a real sense with one another and the political process, (rather than turning out as pawns to be directed) ideas begin to circulate and enthusiasm and involvement begets enthusiasm and involvement…

            Today I got a text from a friend who was at a fire at will rally. I thought it spoke volumes in relation to what happens when people cannot get directly involved; when a distance is forced between them and the issue they found important enough to turn out over and a line or approach is imposed on them.

            “Lots o ppl at this protest but speakers hav been yapping 4 almost 45 fucking minutes. Not like ppl dont hav other things 2 do.”

            Followed five minutes later by:- “Now theyr fucking singing aaarghhh solidarity forever my fucking ass”

            • Puddleglum

              yep, agree again.

              When I was writing the other comment I was thinking the same thing – sidestep the media, act and plan as if they don’t exist. Then I suddenly realised – that would probably get the media REALLY interested. It’s the paradox of stepping outside institutions – it brings you to their attention.

              Either way, what you suggest would be the foundation of something more than many of the pseudo-movements involving people who have nothing but a ‘media strategy’ (PR impersonators, even if ‘in a good cause’). I’m not opposed to having speakers organised into a public meeting but, I agree, at rallies the speeches often become the focus (of those organising the rally) rather than seeing it as an opportunity to let people of like mind meet each other.

              I’ve harped on about the abolition movement in Britain in other comments so I won’t go on about it here too much, but that movement was mainly about people connecting with people, talking to each other, organising everything from petitions to sugar boycotts, to debates, to church sermons, to book tours – all done by individuals and groups according to their own understanding of what the issues were (and often disagreeing over some reasonably fundamental matters – some even over whether emancipation was a ‘good’ thing or not, i.e., some just didn’t like the trade in humans per se but were ‘ok’ about slavery).

              What struck me was that, while there were a surprising number of independent newspapers in Britain at the time, it wasn’t driven just through them.

              You’d think ‘we’ would know by now especially here in New Zealand given the reminder in our own back yard – ‘te tangata, te tangata, te tangata’.

              • Bill

                I’m keen to see the left, or a fair section of it, have the debate on how best to organise a movement.

                I notice on Red Alert that Darien ( after saying that more sophistication is needed) thinks a united front is needed or the movement will be split. Which is a very weird use of language in my book. Either there is a movement, which is by definition not splitable, or there is a coalition, which is merely the crisis managing of splits and schisms against a backdrop of competition between different analyses and viewpoints for ascendancy.

                Anyway. I’m hoping Darien will engage with the comments I’ve left over there.

                Meanwhile, this short piece makes a couple of interesting observations about media and sound bites while offering up examples of people building political vehicles that are or were rooted firmly in the community. (You might want to ignore the fact that the principle motivation behind the piece is to do with mid term elections and giving the Democrats a punt up)


  13. loota 13

    yeah, these rallies have to be thoroughly organised, but at the same time they have to be organic and more interpersonal. Marching down a street shouting in time “Union” then “Power” over and over again gets tired real fast.

    • Bill 13.1

      The thorough organising comes about when the participants are ones doing the organising rather than some self appointed or elected committee or whatever.

      Leaving organising to the CTU or the Labour Party or the various cults on the left will simply see the same old dynamics of exclusivity and exclusion play out over and over again in organising structures. The CTU, Labour Party and the rest are what need to be prevented from having a finger in the organising pie. Organising needs people. Those people can be from the CTU or the Labour Party or wherever, but the dogma or agenda of this, that or the other organisation that they may belong to needs to be left behind. (They can go back to their organisations and seek donations or access to facilities or assets and so on…but they cannot be allowed to create a representative voice if we want to succeed)

      I see that over at Red Alert and further back up this thread, that various factions are already beginning to tear things apart in their pathetic desire to create the bland dictatorship; the homogeneity of a united front.

  14. ZB 14

    The media does not tell the truth. The government have hacked away any real control over the private corporate market place that the have just a few knobs around the economy to twist to look like they are doing something, and those dials are failing to effect anything, so much so that now government is creating new knobs and dials for the private corporate market, then lying that these are needed or solve what they say the new rules will solve. Our government is too weak, and all the avenues for changes that are allowed hurt workers, hurt the economy more, put more debt on the heads of future generations. The media play along, little choice really, and the lies just keep building. Nobody really believes them, just nod and go along and hope the Nasty Nats have some clue, just like we did under Labour. But seriously intelligent people are not allow need a microphone, and most of them are smart enough to stay far away why the emphasis is still about profit rather than people. So march all you like, nothing will change until the liars sack themselves and anyone who says profit gets shout off the TV, out of parliament. People matter, profits don’t.

  15. loota 15

    Am waiting for a Labour Govt which is willing to move as fast and as far towards a people, community, intergenerational oriented progressive Left vision as the likes of Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson and co. were willing to lurch to the Neocon Right.

    And I don’t mean 2041 either.

    • Bill 15.1

      “Am waiting for a Labour Govt which is…”

      You’ll be waiting a long, long time I’m afraid. I was thinking about this and the fact that in the current situation it doesn’t matter who gets to form the government because when we look at the pressures put on government, they are all business pressures. Therefore business will see its demands acceded to, to a greater or lesser extent no matter the government.

      The countervailing pressure cannot logically come from the Labour Party or any other parliamentary party. Community, or whichever label you might use, has to impose itself on government. And community will not be spawned by government. It has to come from us. From me and you.

      Which is back to democratic and sustainable movement building and the sidelining of any and all undemocratic tendencies within the left …..

      Anti-spam being ‘tasks’

  16. Zaphod Beeblebrox 16

    The media seemed to have missed the whole point of who is against whom in this debate.
    They make out that it is only the unions who are against these changes when it is apparent that it will be non-unionists who will be most affected.

    Every one of the 400K indviduals who change employment every year will be putting their families through three months anxiety. Every individual who gets sick or child gets sick will need to try and get to the doctor, even though in many cases (ie viral infections) the doctor will not be needed nor will be keen to see you in their clinic spreading viral particles all over the place.

    The Unions will be able to negotiate proper compensation and dismissal processes for their members- something non-unionists will not be in any position to do.

    Yet the whole media conversation seems to be quarantined to organised labour vs business. Something I am certain Key will desperately keen to continue. Any subtlety or deeper understanding seems to be too much for them to cope with.

  17. jbanks 17

    “Every one of the 400K indviduals who change employment every year will be putting their families through three months anxiety.”

    Don’t be such a drama queen.

    Employers don’t want to fire people. It’s an expense to re-hire & train people. If a worker is doing their job properly there is no reason to fire them.

    • Bill 17.1

      “…there is no reason to fire them.”

      Remembering that we not only talking of business owners here, but middle management types who have the power to hire and fire…

      My nephew wants a job to save for OE, or Uni or whatever.

      Looks like future orders are down, so I’ll save on any potential redundancy.

      I hear that bugger is thinking of forming a union.

      I just don’t like that guy. Can’t stand him.

      So she doesn’t fancy me, eh?

      That guy could probably do my job better than me. Time to spin the big boss a line.

      Seeing as how I fucked up and she is the only one who knows and has leverage over me.

      And the list goes on and on..

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 17.2

      “if a worker is doing their job properly there is no reason to fire them”.
      In that case I assume you would prefer a proper dismissal process. If they were not doing their job properly it should be easy to prove.

  18. jbanks 18

    “In that case I assume you would prefer a proper dismissal process. If they were not doing their job properly it should be easy to prove.”

    If by “proper” you mean one that will unnecessarily cost me time & money, then no. I already have to consider if I can afford the expense of having to re-hire and train someone else. The less it’s going to cost me to get rid of a bad worker the more likely I will be able to re-hire.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 18.1

      I don’t see why you have to lurch from one extreme to the other. Sure, you need to be able to be able to dismiss people without reprisal- but surely you need to have some process. If as you say few will get sacked before the 90 days- surely you could give them a chance to improve performance and give a reason in writing at the very least.

      Its important remember that you are not the only one being affected.

  19. jbanks 19

    Whether someone is likely to improve their performance will have been considered before the decision to get rid of them. I have no problem with giving a reason in writing if it my decision can’t be challenged. Their poor performance is costing me. It’s a business decision not a personal one.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 19.1

      I have no issue with any of that. I don’t like the current unfair dismissal laws at all as it takes too long and things get way too personal- but a knee-jerk reaction now will only provoke a stronger reaction when Labour gets back in.

      • Bill 19.1.1

        ZB To dismiss somebody all you need to do is step through a reasonable process. It doesn’t actually take long at all.

        If I’m not doing my job well enough, the boss should consult with me on the aspects of the job I need to improve, consult with me on the time frame when improvement is expected to take place and that’s it.

        Maybe there is an interim meeting to check progress at a half way point. Maybe not.

        If I haven’t come up to scratch in that time frame and at a final meeting with the boss where he has pre warned me I might lose my job and where I cannot supply a reason for not being up to speed, then that meeting is the one where I was dismissed because I couldn’t cut it.


        Depending on the difficulty of the job, the time frame could be as little as a week or less…or the same time it would have taken somebody to work out their notice say.

        • jbanks

          “ZB To dismiss somebody all you need to do is step through a reasonable process. It doesn’t actually take long at all.”

          What do you base this claim on? Getting rid of bad workers cheaply and quickly is a real concern for small business’s.

          • loota

            Getting rid of bad managers cheaply and quickly is a real concern for workers in small businesses.

            • jbanks

              Managers will be outside the 90-day bill, so yeah.

              Might be bit early to be pushing it to cover all workers though chief.

          • Bill

            I base the assertion on reality jbanks. How long do you believe it takes to dismiss a worker who is incapable of performing their duties? And it doesn’t cost a cent by the way.

            Have a reasonable process in place and follow it.

            Even not having a reasonable process in place and not following any fair and reasonable process does not result in Personal Grievance proceedings being brought against employers in the majority of cases.

            Think fast food outlets, cafes, bars, dairys and such like. And t,consider the numbers of workers who simply have their shifts cut to the extent that they go elsewhere. That’s not a lawful move. But it happens all of the time and the overwhelming majority of people just walk away.

            • jbanks

              “Have a reasonable process in place and follow it.”

              You forget that this law has been built in order to help out the types of businesses that are held hostage by shitty employees early in their term because they cannot afford and do not know how to administer existing provisions under the ERA. They generally don’t have more than a functional working knowledge of the ERA. You’re assuming that they have HR specialists who know about all the variations to the law and the options they have when drafting a contract. Also a formal process is often impractical for these types of businesses, in which a single incompetent employee can cause irreparable harm. They don’t have the luxury of being able to wait for performance management to either fix the employee’s performance or run its course and provide the grounds for dismissal.

              Also the ERA 2000 does not set out a prescriptive list of requirements that employers must follow when they dismiss an employee. It has never set out such a list. What it does say in s 103A is the following:

              For the purposes of section 103(1)(a) and (b), the question of whether a dismissal or an action was justifiable must be determined, on an objective basis, by considering whether the employer’s actions, and how the employer acted, were what a fair and reasonable employer would have done in all the circumstances at the time the dismissal or action occurred.

              When an employer dismisses an employee, and the employee challenges their dismissal in the ERA/EC, this is the test that is applied to the employer’s actions.


              • felix

                “You forget that this law has been built in order to help out the types of businesses that are held hostage by shitty employees early in their term because they cannot afford and do not know how to administer existing provisions under the ERA.”

                What bullshit banksie.

                If you can’t get good staff and hang on to them now – in an economic climate where even good, qualified, reliable, experienced workers are grateful for any job at all – then you shouldn’t be in business.

              • Bill


                “..what a fair and reasonable employer would have done..” That’s the test. Now what’s your problem? That employers are expected to be fair and reasonable in a given set of circumstances?

                Let’s put it another way, do you think it is okay for employees to be unfair and unreasonable? If not, then why is it okay for employers?

                And if I was assuming the existence of HR specialists, don’t you assume I would have fucking well said so?

                Meanwhile, any dimwit with a computer…and this includes you… can draw up a perfectly functional Employment Agreement using the Agreement builder on the DoL website.

                But nobody can draw up a contract. No matter how many variations they might imagine there are in the law. Not since 2000.

                At the end of the day, your comments lead me to conclude that your just a daft wee tory spouting shit on stuff you have no idea about and no experience with.

                • loota

                  Bill so harsh? The poor guy’s probably just been given a set of speaking points to type out, its not really his fault, really.

                  • Bill


                    Too harsh? Shit. That’s the way toned down version I submitted. Oh well.

                  • jbanks

                    You guys are out touch with the NZ business. The DOL’s report on the first year in operation of the 90 day law found 40% of the employers canvassed in the survey claimed that the 90 day rule reduced their exposure to financial risk enough to “take a chance” on those candidates.

                    “If you can’t get good staff and hang on to them now in an economic climate where even good, qualified, reliable, experienced workers are grateful for any job at all then you shouldn’t be in business.”

                    If employees can’t hold onto their job under the new law – then they shouldn’t be working there.

                    • loota

                      jbanks – actually I’m in NZ business. Either those employers needed an extra pair of hands to get extra work done or they did not. The 90 day law did not generate any more orders from customers, so how could it generate any more jobs? Reducing the risk of hiring for 90 days is fine and all but again it doesn’t generate any more sales from customers.

                      I say again – if a firm was going to hire it was going to hire because it had extra work to get done, nothing to do with the 90 day law.

                      If the company didn’t have enough work on to sustain another employee the 90 day law would not have provided that extra work.

                      Hence, very unlikely any more jobs were created. Re the DoL survey – without the 90 day law did the 40% of employers say that they would have preferred to have been short staffed instead and left orders unfilled and jobs not done on time?

                      No, I think not.

                      If they had extra work on they needed extra staff full stop.

                      If they had a burst of work on they could also have employed a temp for a few weeks to get a specific job done and not relied on a right to fire law.

                    • felix

                      banksie, the more you type the more obvious it is that you have very little experience of being an employee OR an employer.

                      You can’t just repeat what someone else wrote with the roles reversed – words have particular meanings.

                      Do you even understand the point you responded to about supply and demand in the labour market?

                      This is the time when employers can have their pick of the best people. 6 years ago the opposite was true.

  20. Darien 20

    IrishBill – thanks (I think). I think you will find my post said that the union movement and the radical left should protest as they did – I have no problem with that, but it can’t be the only strategy – perhaps I meet too many vicar types these days – after all, I work on the North Shore, but wouldn’t we want them our side too?
    Anyway you know I will be there whatever the strategy – we just have to win this one.

    • loota 20.1

      “Vicar types” tend to have large congregations, no? Wouldn’t hurt to have them lend a ear…

      • Bill 20.1.1

        In my experience, many church goers are surprisingly staunch. I guess it might be because they have a certain conviction that subsumes the so called pragmatism that some other, defeatist constituencies, on the left might be said to suffer from.

  21. jbanks 21

    “I say again if a firm was going to hire it was going to hire because it had extra work to get done, nothing to do with the 90 day law.
    If the company didn’t have enough work on to sustain another employee the 90 day law would not have provided that extra work.”

    Out of touch, again. Talk to some real mum & dad owners who work in their business. It’s not unusual for them to be working 55+ hours per week as the financial risk of taking on a potential incompetent employee is too much.

    felix – Of course this bill helps business, it’s from a pro business govt. I’m unaware of any business advocacy group against the 90 day bill. But you know more about business huh?

    • felix 21.1

      You haven’t answered any of the points raised.

      You’re just repeating the same lines despite them being refuted over and again.

      I shan’t waste any more time on someone so willfully ignorant. Good day, troll.

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