Expect more zero-hours crisis cases

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, March 5th, 2015 - 8 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, national, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

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.

Labour is doing good work on this issue – go sign their petition on zero-hours here. Lees-Galloway has lodged a bill to scrap such contracts – there’s a good summary on Scoop:

“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.

8 comments on “Expect more zero-hours crisis cases”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    It isn’t enough to promise to change the law.

    These are human rights abuses, pure and simple. Prosecute the offenders. “I was just following National Party orders” is no defence.

  2. Atiawa 2

    And its because of these draconian changes to our employment law and the increasing inequality in our communities that unions need to campaign for a return to compulsory unionism.
    It would be good to know where the parties on the left stand on this matter. Once we find out we will be better placed to label them – which side are you on -?

    • Atiawa 2.1

      Mmmm no takers.


      The writer however makes no mention of a return to compulsory unionism (perhaps it goes without saying). He has all the reasons why managers and shareholders have hoovered up the surplus created by the deregulation of the labour market and promotes a return to industry and centralised collective bargaining but unfortunately makes no reference to the requirement of compulsory unionism.
      How else do working people get their fair share?
      Let’s get some gut’s. We maybe pleasantly surprised by the silent majorities support.

    • Murray Rawshark 2.2

      I’m actually against compulsory unionism. I think it strips militancy from unions and makes them reliant on the Labour Party to pass favourable legislation. While it means an increase in fees paid, it also introduces a softness to workers’ organisations. It was this softness which allowed the historic defeats of Rogernomics and the first ACT government.

      I am in favour of strong and militant voluntary unionism which achieves results that make it obvious why workers should join. I am a paid up union member and my conditions and salary would be nowhere near as good without our union. Unfortunately those who don’t join get the same benefits. I really don’t think non-union members should get the benefits of union actions.

  3. Sabine 3

    acknoledging that one has caused an issue is one pair of shoes.
    doing something to remove the issue and remedy the situation is another pair of shoes altogether.

    the national party does not wear either of these pairs.

    its their children that one day will wake up and go Dad, Mom…WTF were you thinking.

  4. Murray Simmonds 4

    This is exactly what happens when your country signs up to globalism on a grand scale.

    Not far behind signing up your country to globalism are the “USA-inspired” free-trade agreements that give the offshore multinationals practically unfettered power to determine the internal policies, including the ‘labour laws’ your country.

    It is all part of the strategy of world domination by the multinationals.

  5. Not being pedantic, but the new laws actually come in tomorrow. What’s real is 1000 Meat Workers members employed by Talley’s who have no collective agreement in sight after 14 months, and an employer with a history of doing everything possible to keep out the union. Andrew Little is meeting with some of them tomorrow, but they still need your support as we step up the campaign to get Talley’s to do the right thing. A little message here : http://www.jobsthatcount.org.nz/support_talleys_workers
    goes a long way.

    • Skinny 5.1

      If there is another lock out I hope O Connor is the first Labour MP to front the picket line.

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