You know you’re in for a treat when a political party’s â€˜policy’ (I still refuse to consider half a dozen bullet points a policy) concerning the rights of New Zealanders at work the place most of us spend a good part of our days nearly avoids any mention of the word â€˜rights’. On its surface, National’s â€˜workplace’ policy seems fairly mild (bullet points help in that regard) but, when you look at what it actually means in practise it’s classic National: anti-worker, anti-rights, anti-wage rises. The difference between this policy and Brash’s extreme 2005 policy is one of tone, not substance.
Introduce a 90-day trial period for new employees by agreement between the employer and the employee, for businesses with fewer than 20 staff.
We’ve discussed the 90 Day No Rights policy already (1,2). It’s a mandate for bad bosses to stand over vulnerable workers. Workers will be able to be fired for refusing to work in unsafe conditions, refusing to do unpaid overtime, joining a union, or any of a limitless list of â€˜reasons’. Bad bosses will be able to keep the threat of instant dismissal over new workers at all times.
Continue to allow union access to workplaces with the employer’s consent. â€¢ Restore workers’ rights to bargain collectively without having to belong to a union.
Unions currently have the right to reasonably access workplaces to talk to members and to recruit. This policy means National would allow employers to bar the union from the workplace. Non-union collective bargaining is when a â€˜bargaining agent’ (often the boss or paid by the boss) draws up a collective contract between workers and the boss. The boss refuses to deal with the workers’ union because there’s already a collective contract; workers can accept the collective offered or get nothing. These moves are designed to undermine collective bargaining and, thereby, weaken workers’ power to win better pay and conditions.
Retain the Mediation Service but ensure it is properly resourced with properly qualified mediators. â€¢ Require the Employment Relations Authority to act judicially in accordance with the principles of natural justice, including the right to be heard, and the right to cross-examine before an impartial referee. â€¢ Allow injunctions and important questions of law to be heard in the first instance in the Employment Court. â€¢ Allow a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The mediators in the Mediation service are already properly qualified, unless by â€˜properly qualified’ National means â€˜pro-employer’. The other changes seem designed to make the system more litigious and expensive, putting roadblocks in the way of workers being able to enforce their remaining work rights.
Keep four weeks annual leave, but allow employees to request trade of the fourth week for cash.
If you believe that the choice will genuinely be in workers’ hands, I have some magic beans you might be interested in buying.
Appoint a working party to review the Holidays Act, especially the issue of relevant daily pay.
Labour introduced relevant daily pay to make sure a worker’s leave pay equalled her average daily pay because many waged workers earn a large part of their pay through regular overtime but were previously only paid their ordinary time wages when they were sick or on holiday. National wants to reverse this.
Sometimes what is missing is just as revealing as what’s there: There’s no mention of ACC, paid parental leave, minimum wage increases, Kiwisaver, meal breaks, time and a half on public holidays, and so on. And despite all the rhetoric we’ve heard over the last year, absolutely no mention of how National would lift wages.