The Herald has an interesting article about shift work posted today pointing out the impact shift work has on workers’ families. The article focuses on bus drivers – who have faced some of the biggest attacks on their conditions over the last 17 years. Auckland Bus driver Jim Kelly puts it thus:
I see young guys come into the industry and I have said to quite a few of them, ‘If you’ve got three kids at home, mate, this is not the job to be in, because it will just kill your family life’
This follows research from the States late last year that showed shiftwork increases workers’ risk of cancer.
So let’s see, working shifts ruins your family life and messes with your health and yet very few shift workers get compensation for doing the job, in fact most non-union workers (and unfortunately there’s a lot of them) don’t get a shift allowance and many don’t even get a higher rate than their regular shift counterparts.
This is a fuckin’ disgrace.
The fact that we’re eight years into a Labour government (which, by the way, was founded by Kiwi workers) and yet the law still allows for this sort of shit to happen is a sad indictment of how far right our political spectrum has swung – sure Labour has undone some of the damage National did with the Employment Contracts Act in ’91 but we’re now heading into an election that could see the Tories back in power and the first thing they will do is attack Kiwi workers some more – and it’s gonna be easier for them this time because Labour has done so little to secure our work rights.
And don’t doubt for a second they won’t. For all of Key’s spin about being on the side of working people his party is the party of employers and that means he wants your wages and conditions (or ‘labour costs’, as he calls them) to be even lower. We’ve seen this with his party’s attempts to bring in a bill that would take all work rights from workers in the first 90 days of their jobs (that’s about 200,000 Kiwi workers in any one year) and in their attacks on every piece of legislation put up to improve the lives of Kiwi workers, including increases in the minimum wage, abolishing the youth minimum wage, paid parental leave, flexible working hours and four weeks annual leave. Oh and just for good measure they want to effectively privatise ACC, which would result in workers’ access to treatment and rehabilitation for work-injuries being severely curtailed (as can be seen from the situation in the USA), and they also want to get rid of workplace health and safety delegates.
So that’s the main party choice this year – you can vote Labour for low wages and poor working conditions or you can vote National and see it all get even worse. Kinda makes all this talk from both parties about supporting families seem a bit hollow really.
It is worth noting that nearly every piece of legislation protecting New Zealand workers, while supported by Labour, has actually been driven by the Alliance and the Greens. As the Alliance no longer exists I’d suggest voting Green is the best way to truly support Kiwi families – after all one of the most important elements to having a decent life is having a decent job.