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Employers don’t like Labour’s new employment relations package

Written By: - Date published: 11:45 am, June 30th, 2017 - 43 comments
Categories: class war, poverty, spin, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

In shocking news, it turns out that employers don’t like Labour’s new employment relations package. They (and the usual suspects) are running lines about a return to the 1970s:
Strikes every Xmas under Labour, claims Judith Collins
‘One-size-fits-all’ workplace policy doesn’t cut it for employers
Labour’s industrial relations policy slated
And of course the dirty politics blogs in lock step:
Labour’s 1970s style industrial relations policy
Labour’s 1970’s style Industrial Awards

Must be good policy then! Scaremongering about the worst aspects of National/Muldoon’s 1970s is just that, we live in a very different world today. But let’s just recall that the 1970s had their good points too.

Workers’ share of the country’s wealth was higher.

Productivity gains were more evenly shared.

Poverty was lower.

Inequality was lower.

Workers had more rights.

Sounds awful, right?


I don’t have time to write this up properly right now, but here are just a few snippets. Please feel free to add your own sources in comments, I might write this up better one day.


Child poverty:

.


Inequality increased sharply with the neoliberal reforms of the late 80’s – early 90’s. From the Treasury report Inequality in New Zealand 1983/84 to 2013/14.

It appears that the 1980s reforms – involving cuts in the top income tax rate along with benefit cuts and the ending of centralised wage setting [i.e. the ECA] – are associated with increasing inequality.

inequality nz graph

.


Worker’s share of the country’s wealth:


source


And of course, what productivity gains there are never seem to filter through to workers:

wage and productivity gap

.


Strong unions help!

.


Readings:

Off the Track – State of the Nation Report

Child Poverty in New Zealand

TREASURY WORKING PAPER 00/13 THE CHANGES IN NEW ZEALAND’S INCOME DISTRIBUTION

Who benefits from productivity growth? The labour income share in New Zealand

43 comments on “Employers don’t like Labour’s new employment relations package”

  1. Jono 1

    Must be good if the power brokers dislike it. I say bring it on…

  2. tc 2

    Cue Barnett to take a break from telling akl, via granny, they need to flog watercare etc to fund infrastructure to have the usual bleat about how tough employers have it.

    Expect the volume to go up and the usual shills to bang their drums.

  3. BM 3

    Labour’s really fucked itself with this package.

    No way in hell this is going to happen, Labour, prepare to be utterly trashed for the next 2 and a half months.

    • weka 3.1

      wow, is that really the best you can do now?

    • Bill 3.2

      If you read the policy, the most used word would appear to be “restore”. That is, NZ Labour are restoring the ERA to something like it was before National came to power- which was utterly inadequate from a worker’s perspective given that the ERA wasn’t a million miles distant from the ECA.

      In other words, NZ Labour is doing what many expect and deplore – fiddling around the edges of stuff instead of offering up prospects for fundamental changes.

      Now, if NZ Labour was to restore the fundamental right to strike, and for secondary pickets and (in line with the social democratic UK Labour Party) the right to strike for political reasons…

      • Nope 3.2.1

        Read the policy man. It’s the boldest reform in employment relations since the ECA. Clark would never touch industry agreements. Labour has embraced them.

        • Bill 3.2.1.1

          I have read the policy. It’s constrained and it’s timid.

          The ERA, that that the Clark government replaced the ECA with, did not restore workers rights to anything like what they were before the ECA. Essentially the ERA fully embraced Liberalism.

          These so-called “bold” changes you refer to are entirely along the same “pale pastel” lines of acquiescence and accommodation.

          • Nope 3.2.1.1.1

            That’s not what the CTU and every other union are saying. Can’t imagine any vaguely any other social democratic government introducing anything bolder. Looks to me like it’s to the left of Corbyn.

    • Labour’s really fucked itself with this package.

      Funny, that’s what UK right-wingers were saying a couple of months ago.

  4. AB 4

    I’d prefer the 1970’s to casualization, insecurity, a new working poor and wealth inequality heading back to pre WW1 levels (Piketty).
    In fact, expanding on that last point, it’s our current status quo that is really old-fashioned and radical, as it insidiously tries to unwind many of the advances of the 20th century.
    Now – have I still got that pair of flared red corduroy trousers at the bottom of a drawer somewhere? (Alas they wouldn’t fit)

    • Red 4.1

      Barring where slowly heading to bankruptcy still believing we where britians farm after they had joined the eec and we could survive on wool and frozen mutton exports

  5. weka 5

    Jessica Williams has been tweeting some critical analysis of the reaction,

    Jessica Williams‏Verified account @mizjwilliams

    Jessica Williams Retweeted Newshub

    This is such rubbish and it’s actually irresponsible to report it in this way I’m sorry

    Jessica Williams added,

    NewshubVerified account @NewshubNZ

    NZ would be back in the 1970s with ferry and airline strikes every Christmas under Labour, says @JudithCollinsMP http://bit.ly/2tuSDYG

    2:54 pm – 29 Jun 2017

    Jessica Williams‏Verified account @mizjwilliams 2h
    Replying to @mizjwilliams

    Labour’s policy does not broaden the right to strike. Not at all. The right to strike in NZ is limited to two situations: (cont)

    1. health and safety issue endangering ppl 2. breakdown in collective bargaining. THASSIT. and Labour’s policy WOULD NOT CHANGE THAT.

    Jessica Williams‏Verified account @mizjwilliams 2h2 hours ago

    AND the laws around essential services industrial action are particularly stringent. JUDITH COLLINS IS MAKING THIS STUFF UP, @newshubNZ.

    • weka 5.1

      Jessica Williams‏Verified account @mizjwilliams 2h
      Replying to @mizjwilliams @NewshubNZ

      Just to reiterate: this election is going to see a lot of stuff said on all sides. Media needs to be rigorous in its reporting. End rant.

      Aaron Hawkins‏ @CrAaronHawkins
      Replying to @gtiso @mizjwilliams @NewshubNZ

      cf. Kim Campbell on RNZ this morning saying people can’t be fired within 90 days without a reason. Printed without correction.

      @mizjwilliams

      Jessica Williams Retweeted Aaron Hawkins

      This is also not true. That is the whole POINT of the 90 day trials.

    • Et Tu Brute 5.2

      Forgive my ignorance (as I am sure it is great), but wouldn’t collective bargaining as a right to strike also apply to industry negotiations? If there isn’t collective bargaining to set industry standards under the Labour policy, then who is setting the standards? So therefore, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that strike action could be part of the basket of options available to unions during such collective bargaining?

      • weka 5.2.1

        No idea, not my area at all. Are you talking about non-employment standards?

  6. weka 6

    “1970s style”

    As someone on twitter just pointed out, who was the govt for most of the 70s?

  7. saveNZ 7

    In a cunning move, the right are removing wage earners by replacing them with contracts and you can get rid of anyone you don’t like within weeks. Trickle down is not creating jobs at all, it is making it much easier to get rid of them.

    Increasingly former ‘wage earners’ are now ‘self employed’ as jobs are just disappearing or wage earners are out of a job within weeks for no reason what so ever but just going through a ‘process’. You don’t need a reason to get rid of people anymore and this is creating toxic workplaces, where the most revolting power hungry types are completely unaccountable by law. Process has replaced intelligent selection in a kind of rush to be at the bottom.

    This has effected NZ productivity. Why bother working too hard if you can be out of a job within weeks. Better to suck up to superiors, put your skills into networking rather than upgrading skills and don’t go out on a limb on anything that might come back to you or at least be prepared to blame someone else. Sort of a toxic group think has taken over the country in most areas.

    It’s false economy reducing conditions for workers. That is why NZ has been declining or static in productivity. Smart people leave the country and they are replaced by chefs and low level support IT workers and far right Trump supporting billionaires who don’t even want to live here.

    The idea in the 21st century that a decent country has chefs, level 5 IT workers and tilers as being so highly sought after they need to be imported in, to work at minimum wages is laughable.

    Essentially The National party and modern business has created a weird dynamic of unskilled workers on minimum wages, toxic bureaucrats that can’t do their jobs, Crony board members who serve on multiple boards that use neoliberal ideology for decision making or actually just can’t make any sort of decision apart from short sighted penny pinching, failed lawyers and accountancy fraud, where increasingly workers are forced to be self employed or employers themselves.

    If Labour want to get popular support, it would be to eradicate workplace toxicity and make employment clear and fair by law. A government body that actually works for employment disputes (not takes years and zero outcomes for any parties).

  8. Chch_chiquita 8

    I’m an employer and I have no issues at all with Labour’s policy. In fact, I have no issues with any of their policies and am working damn hard to get them elected. I would have liked them to go even a step further and limit CEOs salary to no more than 10 times that of the lowest paid employee, including those who are employed via agency. But I guess you need to start somewhere.

    So please, don’t put all employers in one basket. Some of us actually look after our employees. I think it is those who are looking to benefit from the race to the bottom who are complaining.

    • weka 8.1

      well said.

    • RedLogix 8.2

      Thank you. And you have plenty of good company; there are many SME employers who look after their people like family.

      So please, don’t put all employers in one basket

      Absolutely fair cop. The political left has all too often completely failed to connect.

    • Psych nurse 8.3

      So if a CEO only gets 10 times the salary of the lowest paid employee then they only get a pay rise by increasing the salary of the lowest paid, good idea.

  9. The Real Matthew 9

    I’m an employee and I think this is ridiculous policy.

    The government has no right in determining what I get paid. That is an issue for me and my employer to determine. If the government decides too low a rate I get shortchanged. If the government decides too high a rate my employer puts me under undue pressure to justify the salary they are paying me.

    If this policy ever comes to fruition we’ll see machines replacing humans and a return to the brain drain that affected this country for so long prior to the current National government reversing that trend. It’s backwards thinking and I’d seriously consider resignation and contracting back to the same company to get around these laws.

    • McFlock 9.1

      Machines are already replacing us.

      And read the Labour policy: they’re on to the old “technically a contractor but really just an employee with less benefits” dodge.

    • Carolyn_nth 9.2

      I’ve never had any possibility on my own of influencing what n employer pays me. There’s always a major power imbalance between me and my employers. So, a strong union is necessary.

      And I have also seen research that shows women tend to be less successful than men in negotiating pay.

      To be able to negotiate your pay on your own, you must be well up the career structure, or have a skill that is in strong demand. Most employees are not in this situation.

    • lprent 9.3

      I am in a high tech industry. I haven’t noticed the brain drain diminishing at all. What I have noticed since the GFC in 2009-2012 is that new grads tend to stick around for a few years to pick up experience before going offshore.

      I suspect that has more to do with the need get more experience to get a job post HTC. Has nothing to do with this pack of idiots in government. The jobs offshore are just harder to get.

    • RedLogix 9.4

      The government has no right in determining what I get paid.

      Just like it has no business setting … oh say flammability standards for building cladding. Right?

    • If the government decides too low a rate I get shortchanged. If the government decides too high a rate my employer puts me under undue pressure to justify the salary they are paying me.

      That does sound terrible. Fortunately, none of the major parties has suggested having the government set your pay rate, so it’s all good.

      If this policy ever comes to fruition we’ll see machines replacing humans and a return to the brain drain that affected this country for so long prior to the current National government reversing that trend.

      Er, what? First, machines have been replacing humans for several hundred years now. Second, the idea that National have reversed a “brain drain” is a novel one that doesn’t appear to have a lot backing it up. The downturn and hostile government in Aus has reversed a longstanding “people drain,” but there’s nothing to suggest the people coming back are unusually smart. Just think, those guys from “The GC” might have moved back here by now, that’s got to have reduced the average IQ of whatever town they’re living in.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.6

      If this policy ever comes to fruition we’ll see machines replacing humans and a return to the brain drain that affected this country for so long prior to the current National government reversing that trend.

      Machines should be replacing humans to do jobs. They’re better at it and more efficient.

      Citation needed for the brain drain reversing and that it’d not just a return of unskilled workers.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 9.7

      Wouldn’t happen to be earning above the minimum (or living) wage, would you Matthew? Maybe quite a bit above even?

    • Sacha 9.8

      It’s only a minimum. Have a bit more confidence in your ability.

    • Foreign waka 9.9

      TRM – any policy that is designed to get the sweatshop labour onto a proper contractual level is helpful. If labour has a plan to do just that, good on them. It would definitely sort the boys from the men in regards to following even the current employment law. There is too much abuse going on and it needs to be stopped. No matter what camp one is in, wrong is wrong in any language and creed. I do not belief anybody will tell you not to negotiate, but the low paid, vulnerable workers should have minimum conditions that one could classify as decent and just.
      National used to be the party of the quintessential kiwi, farmers and small business people but now they become the shareholders of everything and the keepers of nothing. All to just hold on for one more round of perceived power.

  10. patricia bremner 10

    The left are too fond of “Hair Shirts”.
    Every time someone moves the discussion forward, there is the expected clamour from the right, but it is the lack of support from the left that grates!!!
    You are never going to get all you want at once. That won’t happen.
    You have someone moving the discussion from money to conditions of work.
    At last, voters have a choice. The unions have come out in support of this, yet for some even that is not enough, fast enough!!

    Greed for power goes both ways.
    As my Dad discovered when a mine union rep.
    I saw union men drunk on power during the 50’s, losing their industries many rights by souring the negotiating climate due to over reaching and “if you strike we strike” rules.
    My Dad said,
    “they have blood in their eyes and cloth in their ears and will lose all by this.”
    And in the aftermath,
    I also saw communities in the face of draconian laws that took their strike fund money, threatened prison to any who helped strikers, still work to feed their fellow miners, hunting fishing gardening and distributing gifts from other unions to the affected families.
    Few realise there are statutes bought in then that need only marshall law to be in force again.
    All my life I have watched rights being whittled away, because we forgot how to act collectively over time.
    As a teacher, I marched against Bill Birch’s “contracts act”.
    A business friend yelled “What are you doing here? It won’t affect you!!’
    I smartly yelled back “Anything bad for parents has to be bad for kids. So it will affect me and communities.”
    Now we have a doughty leader who is again bringing forward a reasonable discussion of worker rights. More grist to his elbow!! We have to make a start to move the pendulum back again somehow.
    For if we don’t, we damn people to even greater grief for a longer time.
    We need to act collectively to get the wheel turning, then refine the direction.

  11. Nic 181 11

    Workers, including myself, have gone backwards since the “Employments Contracts Law.” Was there ANYTHING more determined to drive down wages and turn New Zealand workers into serfs?
    It has worked superbly and in the process it has produced : children with no lunches, working parents relying on government assistance called “Working for families.” I think the last Labour government introduced this but it is essentially State subsidies for employers. They cannot make a bob without taxpayer support.
    The irony is that employers have innumerable options to claim tax exemptions so most pay either no tax or minimal tax, so to some extent, those paying PAYE fund “Working for families.”
    How did our economy become so fcuked up? How do we fix it/

    • indiana 11.1

      by not hyperbolling so much

      • Foreign waka 11.1.1

        Indiana, you did not answer the question. You just shut down the conversation with a derogatory remark. Back to you…. how would you fix it?

  12. patricia bremner 12

    Indiana 11.1 Hyperboiling? Oh, you mean being emotionally connected to an issue?
    Being hyper and boiling.
    Well that is better than throw away put down/snide remarks.
    The question Nic181 asked was, “how did our economy become so f…kd up?
    How do we fix it? ” PS Nic181. We get rid of contract acts imo.
    Any suggestions Indiana?

  13. Wainwright 13

    Labour should send the EMA bouquets. Made a milquetoast ‘if economically responsible’ policy look like Corbynism.

  14. Zeroque 14

    I do wonder whether the policy has fallen short on the right to strike but I think the notion of industry bargaining should provide further gains for workers in some industries, particularly those that have become de-unionised and are currently not subject to collective bargaining (just about everywhere except the state sector). However, the devil will be in the detail of the legislation. For example, the definition of an “industry” will be crucial as will the level of union membership required before a union can initiate bargaining for an industry agreement.

    Currently workers have limited opportunity to strike and with the exception of H&S grounds, which are rarely used, workers can only strike when they are on an expired Collective Agreement and when bargaining for renewal of that agreement has broken down. I have noticed that strike action has become increasingly rare during the last couple or so decades and I think part of the reason for this is that workers who are often heavily indebted or who are simply forced to live week to week on low wages for other reasons cannot afford to strike at a whim, even if it was an option available to them. And I doubt that this situation will change rapidly for workers given the situation many workers now find themselves in whether they be renters or borrowers.

    There’s also another problem for unions to re-establish themselves rapidly and that relates to the weakened state many find themselves in post 1991. Many will have capacity issues. So in this regard we will not see 70’s and 80’s style unions at least any time soon imo. I think that it will be a very gradual process so in that regard employers should have adequate time to adjust.

    Then there is the question of what the legislation will do to strengthen the bargaining position of those groups of workers who currently do bargain collectively and who already have medium/high union membership and who want to improve their bargaining outcomes. Hopefully these things can be ironed out satisfactorily through the drafting process.

    And then there is the horrible thought of what a bill might look like if NZF were to become involved.

  15. Bg 15

    I wonder if any of the interns employed by Labour’s old mate Matt fall under this?

    Labour has no credibility on employment best practice now

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