Herald and Du Plessis-Allan present compelling argument in favour of industry wide bargaining

Written By: - Date published: 7:48 am, February 4th, 2019 - 26 comments
Categories: articles, business, cost of living, making shit up, Media, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Yes you read this right.

And credit where is credit is due.

And maybe the wingnuts are right and the Herald is secretly a left wing rag although the more likely explanation is that it can and will support a rational argument.

Because Heather Du Plessis-Allan has come out with a well reasoned column that concludes that the Government’s mooted introduction of industry wide bargaining is a good thing.

In her column she refers to a Wellington bar owner who wants to pay his staff a living wage.  But to do so he would have to put his coffee and drink prices up and if he did this he risks losing his patronage to other bars who are not so interested in treating their staff properly.

She then says this:

That, in a nutshell, is at least part of the reason Kiwis are paid so badly. It’s because employers have driven pay rates down in a bid to be the most competitive. The cheapest service. The cheapest product. Whatever it is, at least some of it is on the backs of cheap labour.

It’s how Transit allegedly recently won the contract to run some of Wellington’s buses. It’s accused of undercutting competitors to offer a cheaper contract. How? By paying its drivers less for longer. Many existing drivers quit instead of taking that deal.

That’s business.

And yet it doesn’t have to be. The Government’s Fair Pay Working Group wants to turn that around. In its report, released last week, it recommended a return to industry-wide contract negotiations.

She then points out business identified problems, regional differences, how dangerous industrial action, which is to be proscribed, and also how New Zealand First’s position on the changes is not as yet clear.

She concludes by saying this:

… [T]he motivation behind these recommendations is on the money. Kiwis are underpaid. We’re so cheap to employ, Hollywood once labelled our local Lord of the Rings actors and cast “Mexicans with cellphones”. The average Australian earns 32 per cent more than the average Kiwi. The last time we were paid close to the same as the Australians was the 1970s.

So maybe a return to the 1970s – or just one aspect of it – isn’t all bad. At least, not for everyone.

Well said Heather.

26 comments on “Herald and Du Plessis-Allan present compelling argument in favour of industry wide bargaining”

  1. bwaghorn 1

    The one in ten trigger point is too low though . 51% should be the trigger point.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Why? It would mean that there would never be collective bargaining.

      • bwaghorn 1.1.1

        1 in ten just seems to low to get buy in from both sides . 51% was just my opening bid !!
        (I never have or will employ anyone btw)

    • Craig H 1.2

      Currently the collective bargaining trigger is 2 people in a workplace who would be covered by the proposed coverage clause, so 10% of an industry seems reasonable.

  2. ianmac 2

    If a collective pay rate was set at X dollars there would be nothing to stop a good employer from offering more that the set rate if he/she wanted to. Right?

    • Craig H 2.1

      Correct, standard bargaining would still exist, it would just be to decide what is going to be over and above the industry agreement.

      • Bewildered 2.1.1

        That’s the issue though every one just pays the award, you can’t pay over as some workers deserve it other don’t but to maintain parity and equity you just don’t, not to mention the award or CA normally prevents you doing it i.e legally favouring one worker over another on merit This is why I personally was much happier on individusl contracts Saying all of this I am partially ok with some of these awards eg truck drivers as here it is a race to the bottom, albeit all that will happen long term is more contractors, outsourcing, offshoring, automation and less waged labour as markets respond accordingly to higher costs and competition

        • Craig H

          Agreed that most people will be paid the award rates, but there is still theoretically the option to pay more. A lot of bargaining tends to be about other benefits besides pay.

    • That was what was so annoying about employers demanding “wage flexibility” back in the ’80s and ’90s: the award rates set a minimum standard, and any employer had full flexibility to pay more than the minimum set by the award. The fact that they never did pay more than the award rate tells you everything you need to know about what “wage flexibility” actually meant to them.

      • ianmac 2.2.1

        A good employer being able to pay higher wages defeats the Bridges argument against the plan doesn’t it?

        • Psycho Milt

          History defeats Bridges’ argument against the plan. Every gain in workers’ pay and conditions over the last 200 years has been greeted with cries of how damaging it would be to business, and somehow here we still are with most things still run by businesses.

  3. Chris 3

    The crucial missing variable in all of these types of discussions that involve potentially passing on inceased costs to the consumer is the bottom line profit margin any particular small business owner is not prepared to go below. It’s this information that’s vital for determining whether a business is viable, or potentially viable; or whether paying the minimum wage or less than the living wage or less than fair wages is necessary for the small business to continue. The latter suggests they shouldn’t be in business.

  4. Puckish Rogue 4

    So HDPA good now? So hard to keep up with at times…

    • veutoviper 4.1

      A case of “there is an exception to every rule”?

      Good on mickysavage for both posting this and giving credit where credit is due. I probably would not have read HDPA’s column if he had not posted this.

      [Off topic, but hope things are going well. Presume initial three week training now finished and now on the job properly? Do an update on OM some time soon, Keep carry that card, Comrade!]

    • You’ll find it easier to keep up if you stop believing that people are good are bad based on whether you agree with them or not.

    • ianmac 4.3

      Puckish. Forgive HDPa for she knows not what she is doing.

    • Sabine 4.4

      a stopped clock is ‘good’ twice a day.

  5. Kat 5

    Have to laugh. Its more likely a new “good cop bad cop” type of game aunty herald is playing. HDPA drew the long straw for this topic, the Hosk drew short. Leopards don’t change spots overnight.

    • tc 5.1

      Totally. They’ll spin it as a balanced coverage and watch out for HPA getting snippy if her views aren’t endorsed to her nuanced satisfaction so she can go on the bash along with the manchild hosk.

      Same old bait and switch from granny.

  6. Jum 6

    puckish rogue – HDPA? – you make her sound like the HyDra’s Personal Assistant. Why don’t you just call her du Plessis although duplicitous will do.

    The next two years will be the watershed of the diabolical damage of the 80s 90s some 00s a lot of 10s. Any New Zealander that continues to say that cheap labour is fine in the pursuit of profit does not deserve to be a New Zealander. That just means that one New Zealander is making profit from the suffering of a fellow New Zealander.

    Then there’s the owners of New Zealand assets, rental housing and businesses that live overseas or never even came here. What does that say about the treatment of Kiwi workers and the use/exploitation of assets (water bottling by the billions) in the pursuit of profit?

    Labour needs to weed out the ugly side of business and reward the businesses that respect their workers, whatever side they are.

  7. patricia bremner 7

    It is time we talked of fairness for wage and salary earners.

    All through the comments the theme of “Business” points of view and needs were mentioned.
    We have become used to putting wage and salary earners last. That is wrong.

    We need to describe the society we want, and one we know is fair. The beginning of that was the living wage.

    Here was a benchmark which business could be measured by, and it begins change.
    When business owners directors and corporations find themselves social misfits they begin to look at that and the impact on their image or brand.

    The smart ones change as Westpac is an example, some like Talley’s will resist ’till the law makes them change.

    Those Rentiers who squeeze the last dollar of leverage from their assets must be made to prove their costs are fair, which implies inspections an ombudsman or other system.
    When a judgement finds they owe their customer a refund or compensation, that must be enforced.

    Depending on the size of the advantage sought, a lien on their property or sale of an asset to pay both the customer/department and the authority should happen in a timely manner/ a court imposed fairer rate of payment/ a loss of licence to carry on.

    What is currently considered fair should be clear and measurable.
    With that in mind we have to have an agreed base from which to judge illegal or legal, fair or unfair.

    So industry wide agreed payments will provide that base.

  8. Muttonbird 8

    This just highlights her inconsistency and tendency to promote controversy for her own ends. She leaves a slimy trail of such actions wherever she has slithered.

    I find her a duplicitous shock-jock desperately clinging to her own delusions of grandeur.

  9. georgecom 9

    I hear it stated so often how “increased productivity is the key to getting wage rises”. What I don;t see said immediately following that is how the share of national income between capital and labour has shifted so much in favour of capital since the 1990s and dismantling of awards. If productivity is the key, why is the gap between labour and capital not closing. certainly awards had problems and the coverage of awards could be a bit archaic. West Coast, Nelson (excluding Golden Bay) and Canterbury (excluding mid Canterbury) sheep dippers award etc. The Labour Relations Act of 1987 was designed to move IR toward industry based bargaining. That legislation never had time to run in proper course when the none sense ECA was enacted. What we are seeing now is an attempt to move back toward an industry based footing

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