Today is not a good day for workers. Here’s a press release from Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway that I’m going to reproduce in full:
Life to get harder for zero hour workers
Wednesday, 4 March 2015, 9:17 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party
Employment law changes that take effect tomorrow will make life even harder for workers battling zero hour contracts, Labour‘s spokesperson on Labour Relations Iain Lees-Galloway says.
“From tomorrow, it will be harder for working people to bargain collectively, harder to make sure new staff members get good terms and conditions and harder to take partial industrial action.
“Meanwhile it will be easier for employers to walk away from negotiations, easier to dismiss an employee without giving them access to relevant information and easier to ditch employees when a business is sold.
“And taking away the right to a tea-break is just a kick in the guts.
“Many workers will try to use collective bargaining to get zero hour contracts out of their workplace this year. It’s bad enough that the Government refuses to take action on zero-hour contracts but making it harder for workers to take action themselves is just shameful,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.
“The Certainty at Work Bill requires employment agreements to include an indication of the hours an employee will have to work to complete the tasks expected of them. It maintains flexibility for employers while giving employees certainty about the amount of work they can expect to be offered.
In contrast National’s position now appears confused. On the one hand Workplace Relations & Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse admitted on Campbell Live (on Tuesday) that there were “excesses” in the exploitation of zero hours contracts, and promised to introduce legislation to “prohibit” them. On the other hand the legal changes taking effect today will make matters worse. There’s a short summary of the changes on this Lawyers’ web site, here are the first four points:
1. Collective bargaining
The current duty of good faith to conclude a collective agreement unless there is genuine reason not to do so will be removed. It will allow a party to the bargaining to get a declaration from the Employment Relations Authority that the bargaining had concluded. If it is so declared, industrial action or new bargaining can be initiated within 60 days.
2. Mutli-Employer Collective Agreements (MECA)
At present if a workforce votes to be covered under a multi-employer collective agreement (MECA), the employer must join the negotiations. Employers may now opt out of a MECA.
3. Thirty- day protection for new employees
The requirement to offer new employees the same terms and conditions of employees on the relevant collective for the first 30 days (even if they are not members of the Union) is removed
4. Strikes and Lockouts
The changes will end open-ended strikes or lockouts. Any group of employees, not just certain essential industries, will have to give written notice of industrial action which must include a start and finish date, likewise for lock-outs by employers. Employers will also now have the power to deduct 10% of an employee’s pay for partial strike action.
Everything there is designed to weaken the rights of workers. It will lead to more of the “excesses” that Woodhouse has just acknowledged and promised to prohibit. Does National’s legislative right hand know what its far-right hand is up to?
The pressure on zero-hours is going to keep building. The cases featuring currently e.g. on Campbell Live are from the fast-food sector, but this is a more widespread problem, common in “retail, finance and security”, also widespread in the health sector (particularly caregivers). Workers have been scared to come forward, but with a growing campaign building around the issue, that might be about to change.