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Christchurch workers

Written By: - Date published: 9:24 pm, September 6th, 2010 - 41 comments
Categories: employment, jobs, Unions - Tags: , ,

Media Release 10.00am 06-09-10

Union flooded with calls from worried workers in Christchurch

Unite Union’s Christchurch office has been flooded with phone calls and text messages from worried workers in post-earthquake Christchurch.

“Many workers at Christchurch’s restaurants, cinemas, hotels and security firms are worried that they will not be paid for the working days lost because of the earthquake. We are very worried that some employers will seek to withhold payment for work that employees were rostered to do over the weekend,” said Unite’s Christchurch organiser Matt Jones.

“Union members with young children have also been calling us concerned that their employer will force them to work before schools and childcare centres reopen after Wednesday.” said Mr. Jones.

Staff at a local fast food outlet unanimously voted to return home once they were reminded of their rights at work on Saturday. Whilst the discussion took place the store was rocked by one of the numerous aftershocks the city has felt over the weekend. The Canterbury Medical Health Officer has advised locals to stay away from their workplaces unless they are deemed fit by structural engineers. Both the Health and Safety Act and the Civil Defence Act support this statement

“John Key will bail out property owners and big business using state cash but who will help out the thousands of low paid Christchurch workers who have lost jobs and incomes because of the quake? Key should provide instant cash relief to Christchurch’s struggling working population.”

“Precarious and casual workers face unemployment, bankruptcy and hard times in Christchurch. If New Zealand’s large corporations and employers cut adrift the workers of Christchurch then the city will face a social disaster on top of this natural disaster,” concluded Mr. Jones.

Unite is prepared to name and shame businesses that abandon or rip-off their workers in the aftermath of the earthquake. Workers’ can call 0800 2 UNITE (0800 286 483) to share their story and seek workplace advice.

Matt Jones | Christchurch & Nelson organiser

Unite Union
6A Western Springs Road
Auckland 1021
New Zealand

Phone: 029 201 3837
Freephone: 0800 2 UNITE

Website: http://www.unite.org.nz
Email: [email protected]

41 comments on “Christchurch workers ”

  1. Nick C 1

    So, Unite expects businesses to pay workers for work they didnt do on days that business’ couldnt open?

    • mcflock 1.1

      Why not? The businesses expect a payout from insurance and the EQC.

      • Nick C 1.1.1

        Does the EQC compensate businesses for lost revenue, or just damage to property?

        • mcflock

          no idea about EQC – but lost revenue can/should be insured against..

          • Nick C

            If businesses should pay to insure against lost revenue then why shouldnt workers pay to insure against lost wages?

            • mcflock

              because lost revenue of whatever cause is a risk of doing business, whereas in employment agreements the hardship of either party seems to be irrelevant to the agreement. e.g. I signed an employment agreement with redundancy clauses should the employer not require/not be able to afford to employ me to do the job anymore.

              Let me put it this way – why should a worker lose out because the employer was too tight to insure himself?

              • Nick C

                Firstly I dont see why you would regard not getting insurance against lost revenue to nessesarily be a bad or ‘tight’ decision. There are lots of legitimate reasons business may choose to not take out insurance against lost revenue in the event of a natural disaster; maybe they are small businesses who struggle to make ends meet in good times, maybe they felt the insurance companies were overcharging.

                Your question could also be reversed; Why should an employer lose out because a worker was too tight to insure himself? I dont get your argument about why losing your pay isnt a legitimate risk of being an employee, try explain better. You may have redundancy clauses but others may not.

                • mcflock

                  The employer gets rewarded for taking the risk. They can/should choose to mitigate that risk via insurance, but they still risk their capital for the chance of a matching reward. The employee is not being paid to assume the risk of the enterprise. The employee is being paid to do their job, not be an entrepreneur.

                  The employer says they will pay the employee to do a job. The employee makes themselves available to work. If the employee can work, the employer needs to live up to their side of the contract. If the power goes out but the worker is available, they still get paid. If the gas gets cut off, they still get paid. If the worker bails, they don’t get paid and they might well be liable to pay the employer (depending on the contract and circumstances of the abandonment).

                • Vicky32

                  “maybe they are small businesses who struggle to make ends meet in good times”
                  If that’s true then maybe they shouldn’t be in business – or they should go back to business school!
                  At the very least, their employees should be warned that the company they work for is hanging by a thread!

          • The Baron

            Do you also think that all home owners can/should have their property insured, and that therefore the state shouldn’t be chipping in for those that cheaped out?

            If not, then why do you think they should be treated differently?

            • mcflock

              actually, I think that all homeowners, workers and employers should have access to a central fund in the case of widespread disasters such as this. Private insurance for smaller issues (e.g. ooo a truck drove through my wall), but really I’m not sure that the private sector can handle anything much bigger than the current incident.

              Worst case scenario, we get hit by something big enough that it completely overwhelms key private sector insurers and buggers the economy that way. Having a govt administered fund incrementally paid for out of general taxation over many years would provide a national safety net to fund recovery and maintain at least a modicum of monetary circulation.

      • Sideoiler 1.1.2

        Only because the businesses has paid for the insurance.

    • Marty G 1.2

      so you expect families to lose their livelihoods because of events beyond their control. But you are happy for SCF investors to get a pay out for taking a gamble.

      • Nick C 1.2.1

        Well firstly im not happy for SCF investors to get a pay out for taking a gamble. Crony capitalism is far more reminisent of socialism than free markets.

        More importantly though the question is, should businesses be obliged to compensate workers for work they didnt do when the businesses themselves are losing a whole lot of money for not being able to open because of circumstances beyond their control? The welfare of the families is a different issue, that should be the states job to cover, not that of the employer.

        • Marty G

          Your instinct is that businesses come before workers who you see as labour costs first, human beings second.

          Nonetheless, you’ll like my suggestion in tomorrow’s post, Nick C

          • Nick C

            I disagree, because I think you are conflaiting two different issues; one being compensation for work the other being the welfare of the employee. The employee absolutely has a responsibility to provide pay for work done (I believe the union slogan is ‘a fair days pay for a fair days work’). But they dont have any obligations which reach to the employees welfare. I want to show that is absurd for two reasons.

            Firstly how far would you take this obligation? Lets say an employee got scammed $100,000 and was deep in debt. Would the employer then have an obligation to look after their welfare? Here it is neither the employer or the employees fault that they are out of pocket, just like with the earthquake. It seems absurd that the employer is responsible.

            Secondly, does this obligation go the other way (presumably anyone who believes that the employee-employer relationship should be an equal one would think it does)? I.e. if your employers welfare is damaged because the business isnt doing very well (let us presume it is through no fault of their own) should the employee have to work extra hours at lower pay to help the employer? I think not. The point is that the relationship only exists so far as it is a mutually beneficial trade of labour for wages, nothing beyond that.

            And im sure ill like your suggestion tomorrow Marty, I like all your suggestions 😉

            • felix

              “…should the employee have to work extra hours at lower pay to help the employer? I think not.”

              That’s what’s happened though Nick. Most workers have taken an effective pay cut over the past year (or 2 years?) in real terms.

              This has been instigated and encouraged by the National govt as a response to the recession.

              Then there’s the “9 day fortnight” and similar arrangements where workers, in the interests of the welfare of the company as a whole, make do with less hours and fewer pay.

              Mostly though, I question your underlying assumption that employers have no responsibility for workers beyond paying them for time served. What an utterly barbaric notion.

              • Nick C

                Its true that workers have taken effective pay cuts over the past few years. Thats not because of some moral or legal obligation on the workers part to do so though, the labour market has shifted due to a failing economy and wages have gone down across the board. In a situation where the economy was generally doing well but one particular business was failing the workers of that business probably wouldnt be prepared to take the pay cut.

                You may think my argument is utterly barbaric, but I dont see why. I just dont think businesses should double as welfare providers; if you want a welfare provider then the state is better positioned.

                • felix

                  Like it or not Nick, workers are utterly dependent on their employers. That’s just the way most of the economy is structured.

                  That’s the environment we currently operate in, and workers have to live with it for now.

                  Can’t say I think it’s ideal either, but there it is.

                • prism

                  What a circular argument you make Nick C. Your argument would normally be that the State shouldn’t be propping up workers yet now you say that employers shouldn’t be responsible, and workers should look to the government instead. So I suppose you feel that individuals should be insuring themselves against every emergency both general and individual, This ignores the way that business runs, incorporating costs into their price which is then paid by the customer. Individuals don’t have this opportunity. The need of business to have affordable and attractive prices of course limits how much cost can be incorporated.

                  You say employers shouldn’t feel any responsibility to their staff. That’s a crop harvesting approach where the crop is valued for what it can be sold for, or if the market collapses, left rotting on the ground. It is neither a moral or practical method to treat living beings (humans and animals) and run an economy.

              • Vicky32

                Felix, whilst I agree with you, and I do, 100% I can’t let this go – “make do with less hours and fewer pay.” (It should be fewer hours and less pay – sorry, my English teacher instincts kicked in.)
                BTW, just listening to 3 News bleating on behalf of the bosses, and basically saying “sod the workers, our pity is for the bosses…” As always with 3 News!

                • felix

                  Hehe, that was a little poke at the Nat’s 2008 “more teachers, less bureaucrats” billboards.

                  • Vicky32

                    Sorry Felix, I didn’t realise that! So their mistake – I ought to have known… Sorry!

                  • Vicky32

                    Sorry Felix, I didn’t realise that! So their mistake – I ought to have known… Sorry!

        • Draco T Bastard

          And yet I’m sure I’ve seen you complaining about the “welfare” state.

  2. Matt 2

    Key announced today that larger companies should feel obliged to pay workers up to 2 weeks if their properties are damaged.

  3. Jenny 3

    The question is, will landlords let workers, who haven’t been paid their wages, off of, paying their rent?

    What about all the other costs that it takes to live?

    Will working people be let off all these bills?

    My guess is no.

    So why are workers (many on minimum wage) with families to support and bills to be paid being asked to go without?

    To subsidise everyone else?

    Is this how it is suppose to work?

    Are subsidies and bailouts and earthquake pay outs only for business owners and other well off folk?

    Wouldn’t many of these sorts of people have savings and funds to tide them over, while workers on low wages barely have any?

    Just like the recession is the real hardship and even privation only to be borne by honest working people and their families?

    Where’s the justice in that?

    • indiana 3.1

      In times like this, I would like to see the government legislate that those affected by income loss can have access to their Kiwisaver funds and not have to wait until they turn 65.

      For the future, if we are going to have a program like ACC, we can or should also think of a suitable income protection program that is mandatory for all employees.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        At the moment you can get access to kiwisaver funds if you are in extreme need of them. However it is presently judged on a provider-by-provider basis, there is no government body that makes decisions one way or the other, so depending who you provider is makes it more or less difficult to get to those funds. The bar seems to have been set pretty high to get money out, though.

        The government will probably enact some sort of framework around exactly how it’s supposed to work, as these issues will only become more pressing as kiwisaver matures. It’s very much a work-in-progress area of legislation.

  4. TightyRighty 4


    the CTU is doing a much better job than this matt jones wanker

    • mcflock 4.1

      Interesting: TR prefers the CTU over Unite. Probably because there was no general strike over the ECA.

      • Jenny 4.1.1

        Things can change. TR is out of date, the CTU next planned actions against the 90 day bill are to be on the 20th of October in the middle of the working week.

        • mcflock

          and so the workers’ reps have learnt the lessons of the past, but the tories are contuing with their old programme. I hope it’s not too late.

        • TightyRighty

          i was actually referring to the offer from the CTU to work with workers, businesses and government. guess you’re the one a little bit out of touch jenny

  5. RedBack 5

    Just makes you realize there are some unscrupulous rat bags out there who will use any old excuse to [email protected] on their employees. Nil support either from Mr B. English who washed his hands of it by saying it was up to individual businesses to decide what to do. WTF? Any employer who uses the Christchurch quake to as an excuse to financially disadvantage any of their staff needs to be named and shamed. Utterly disgraceful attitude.

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