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Iain Lees-Galloway: We’re winning on zero hour contracts

Written By: - Date published: 1:11 pm, March 2nd, 2016 - 78 comments
Categories: labour, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: ,

iain lees-galloway

Iain-Lees Galloway on the thinking behind Labour offering tentative support to the Government for the Employment Standards Legislation Bill.

Last year the union movement, led by Unite, launched an amazing campaign against zero hour contracts. One of Andrew Little’s first moves as Labour leader was to get in behind that campaign and pledge that in government Labour will put an end to these unfair, exploitative contracts.

The campaign, which included industrial action by union members, a petition by signed by over 40,000 people, and an intense lobbying effort, caused the government to back down and commit to ending zero hour contracts.

Unsurprisingly, the Nats broke that promise. When the legislation came through, it in fact entrenched zero hours in law. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with the CTU and others to put pressure on the government to keep its promise and get rid of zero hour contracts for good. National’s support parties have now withdrawn their support and they no longer have the numbers to get the law through Parliament.

This puts those of us who have campaigned to end zero hour contracts in a great position. National has now agreed to negotiate with us to change the law to ban zero hour contracts.

But what does that mean in practice?

The reality is it’s not as simple as repealing something in the law called ‘zero hour contracts’. Zero hour contracts are a result of a series of legal loopholes that have become increasingly exploited by bad employers in recent years. Our job is to identify those loopholes and close them down.

Being on a zero hours contract is basically about being permanently on call without regular hours of work. That means no security of hours and no security of income, making any kind of decent life impossible. And as with any employment relationship, it’s about power.

There are three things that we and the CTU are trying to get movement on:

  1. We want to remove the ability of employers to put people on contracts where they are on-call with no permanent hours. Being on-call can be fine in some contexts, but being on call all the time with no security of regular hours is not – particularly when it means people can’t get other work.
  2. Employers should not be able to cancel shifts at the last minute, and the idea that employers can simply cancel shifts when they like should not be normalised in law.
  3. Where practical, hours of work should be included in the employment agreement so that people can plan their lives with some security.

The Government is working with us and others including the CTU on getting these changes made.

So what does that mean from here?

Let me be very clear – Labour is committed to ending zero hour contracts and we will not support this legislation unless it does that. We will be voting to let the bill reach the next stage of the legislative process – the clause-by-clause debate – where these changes can be made. If zero hour contracts are gone, we’ll vote for it. If not, we’ll vote against it.

Some have said over the last 24 hours that Labour should just vote against the bill and hope that it fails. For some, giving the government a black eye is worth it. But it would mean leaving thousands of New Zealanders stuck in zero hour contracts. I’m not willing to put Parliamentary parlour games ahead of doing what’s right for working people – that’s not why I’m in politics and I know that’s not why Andrew Little is either.

I’m asking for your support in continuing to put pressure on the Government to do what it promised and end zero hour contracts. Everyone deserves security and dignity at work. It’s that simple.

The pressure is working. Please add your name to Labour’s petition here: http://www.labour.org.nz/zero-hours

Iain Lees-Galloway
Labour’s Workplace Relations & Safety spokesperson

78 comments on “Iain Lees-Galloway: We’re winning on zero hour contracts ”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    if what Iain has written above is the actual LP position that will play out, very good

    if the opposition foot is on the Nats throat for once please sweet jeezus keep it there!–the worry as always is if the other Nat “support” parties will waver

  2. Lanthanide 2

    It’s a good thing that Winston won Northland, since otherwise National would be on 60 and only need David Seymour’s vote to pass it.

    Now they require Dunne + Seymour, and it seems like Dunne ain’t playing ball.

  3. Pink Squirrel 3

    Its great to see minor parties moving beyond opposition for the sake of opposition and instead towards trying to actually achieve something.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Is this the first instance you’ve noticed? Better late then never I suppose.

  4. Michael 4

    Good on the Labour Party – it really knows how to stick it to capitalist exploiters of working people – by voting for their worker-bashing laws. A couple of cosmetic changes here and there (like replacing the word “Contracts” with “Relations” in the Short Title of a certain Bill) and the proles will be too dumb to figure out they’ve been shafted by “their” Party – again. Let’s just fudge the language around zero hours contracts a tiny bit, run it past the semantics department, and we can cut along to that slap up dinner those nice people from Globalcorp have laid on for us.

    • Kenya 4.1

      Yawn. Sounds like you’ll never be happy. It’s the self-indulgence of someone who wants to play leftest man in the room but has no responsibility to anyone who’s actually working on a zero hour contract. All mouth, no trousers and certainly no political strategy to actually make things better for people.

    • Jan 4.2

      Codswallop – go and get some glasses and read again ! Inherit dislike of Labour (troll) oozing out of every bitter and twisted line here

    • mickysavage 4.3

      So we should put up with zero hour contracts which the current law allows. Better to do nothing eh?

    • The two laws are radically different in their approach, Michael. I’d argue that Labour didn’t go far enough, but what they did do was bring back good faith in employment law, recognised unions and freed up bargaining so workers actually saw their wages and conditions improve in the Clark years.

      • Michael 4.4.1

        How about taking a principled stand against zero hours employment agreements instead of collaborating with the Nats to enact legislation that facilitates it?

        • Iain Lees-Galloway 4.4.1.1

          We will not support legislation that enables zero-hours contracts. We will only support legislation that gets rid of them. I know it seems odd that a bill that enables them could, with a few changes, totally get rid of them but that is the situation we have here. This is not collaboration. This is not compromise. This is an opportunity to win for working people and we are going for it.

          • DoublePlusGood 4.4.1.1.1

            It’s like Labour has Stockholm Syndrome or something…

          • Michael 4.4.1.1.2

            Why not defeat the Bill and offer your own, spelling out clearly that zero-hours contracts are illegal? It looks like Labour is collaborating with the Nats on this – even though you say the semantic nuances of the law you are backing mean that its provisions have a diametrically opposing effect. While I am sure the caucus is busily congratulating itself on Its devilish cunning, it looks to me that Labour is trying to appear all things to all people again. I suggest you make an effort to re-establish contact with Labour’s political base – we don’t want clever deals with the Nats. We want a Labour Party that knows which side it is on.

            • mickysavage 4.4.1.1.2.1

              Because increased paid parental leave will not happen and zero hour contracts will still be illegal?

  5. rhinocrates 5

    Oh fucking Hell. If this is “winning” (have you been talking to Charlie Sheen?), I’d hate to see losing.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/77413441/government-scrambles-for-support-on-zero-hours-bill

    The metaphors abound: go ahead, roll that turd in the shiniest glitter; get those Tui billboards ready Iain; throw the workers under the bus again, but it’s getting awfully crowded under there.

    It looks like “Union Negotiator” Little never saw a fight that he wouldn’t back down from. Like Key, he seems more interested in “making deals” for their own sake than thinking about who they’re supposed to help.

    What a spineless, useless waste of skin. If Labour’s looking for a new logo, I suggest half an arse.

    NO COMPROMISE!

    • If you’re having trouble reading the post, just sing out. I’m here to help.

      • rhinocrates 5.1.1

        I have read it, and I know that from the party of Douglas and Goff, talk is cheap – or worthless until there are results.

        • te reo putake 5.1.1.1

          And yet, when Labour are in Government, there are tangible results. Wallowing in negativity, on the other hand, achieves nothing.

          • Bob 5.1.1.1.1

            “Wallowing in negativity, on the other hand, achieves nothing”
            And yet this has been Labours approach for the past 7 years…

            I actually applaud Labour on their stance, this is a great way to make a positive change in opposition. Just opposing everything gets you nowhere.

    • Kenya 5.2

      Sorry, I don’t understand how it helps anyone to refuse to negotiate and simply vote the legislation down. Or, cede the field for united Future to do the negotiating and get something piss weak.

      What exactly do you suggest Labour does in this situation? if the government says yes it will end zero hour contracts and you’ve forced them to make sure that happens why wouldn’t you do it? I mean honestly, wtf?

    • rhinocrates 5.3

      Just to add, why I’m so angry.

      Little never drew a “bottom line” that he didn’t blur.

      The 90-day fire-at-will? One of those absolute core issues of principle that (Do)Little was never, ever, scout’s honour, absolutely not going to surrender… until he did.

      TPPA? Weathervaning like mad, Parker promising the “best deal” at a rally in opposition to it. He got well-deserved boos. Little finally decides that he’s against i… except Captain Mumblefuck rides out in favour and that walking mass of protoplasm Goff gets “special dispensation”… and by the way, Little’s decided that a Labour-led government won’t withdraw from it anyway. So it’s a sham. And an incompetent one at that.

      Got a “Chinese sounding name”? You’re the Yellow Peril! What’s more, according to Little, white folks like him get to decide if it’s racist or not.

      Trans? Like Jeremy Clarkson, Little thinks that you’re the punchline for a joke. An incomprehensible joke.

      What do I think of the Labour leadership?

      Next!

      • Jamie 5.3.1

        Little is dealing with a right wing caucus faction and consolidating power. You saw what happened the moment he said Labour opposed TPPA. Give him a chance, he’s only been there a year and Labour is in a better place than its been in eight years. Fact is he came out against the TPPA something Labour would never have done under any previous leader, and he’s announced free tertiary education. I can see you’re angry at what you’re seeing in the media but your analysis lacks any understanding of the internal dynamics he’s working through. There is no messiah, it’s a long hard road making progressive change. Why not critique where there is legitimate grounds for critique rather than trying to undermine genuine and principled efforts to end zero hour contracts?

        • rhinocrates 5.3.1.1

          I am sympathetic with your points, you see a glass half-full, but the pessimist in me sees a glass half-empty and is tired of waiting years for it to rise.

          True, there may be no messiah – but that’s because they’d never get near the stale, pale front bench Little has set up.

          And I’m tired of hearing that there’s STILL some way to go. The future starts now, not with promises.

          I’ve seen Little crumble like a stale meringue on every fatuous “bottom line” and just let that caucus roll over him. Principles and promises are nothing without determination.

          Labour could start be getting out into the community and engaging with protest movements, not patronising it. A real leader would use that populism to strengthen his hand.

          • rhinocrates 5.3.1.1.1

            Furthermore…

            I think Little’s main problem is that he’s thinking like a union negotiator – in a bubble, working on behalf of a structured organisation behind closed doors.

            Politics is not like that.

            There’s a community of self-motivated, partisan groups outside the smoke-free rooms. There not there to be patronised, they’re the people, the voters, the activists who’ll be knocking on doors leading up to the election.

            Saying “I’ll get you the best deal, now go away” won’t do. They want in on the process.

            They’re people who have memories and keep grudges… or faith.

            They’re the lifeblood of a political party.

            Treat them with dignity, listen to them. A bureaucrat like Little doesn’t appreciate that.

          • weka 5.3.1.1.2

            “but that’s because they’d never get near the stale, pale front bench Little has set up.”

            Was allowed to set up. Your anger is righteous, I just think it’s not quite targeted right.

            • rhinocrates 5.3.1.1.2.1

              Thank you, but “was ALLOWED to set up” is all too telling. He’s no leader.

              • weka

                So he steps aside beause he’s not leader. What happens next? Is there someone in the Labour caucus better suited to leading and who could choose their own cabinet? From what I can tell, the way caucus works is you need the numbers. A leader can’t just do what they want without the numbers.

          • left for deadshark 5.3.1.1.3

            @ rhino That is one of the best points made about this current make up (labour parliamentary machine) and that attitude flows through the rest of the party too a large degree. That saddens me.

        • Jenny Kirk 5.3.1.2

          + 100% Jamie

  6. Dya remember on election night when the Nats were crowing about governing alone? Now that actually pretty slim majority is down to bugger all.

    Good on Labour for sticking it to them. This bill was intended to legislate FOR zero hours contracts. Now there’s a good chance of turning it into a law that’s actually AGAINST zero hours contracts. We’ll still need a change of government for real fairness in our employment laws, though.

  7. Wayne 7

    An alternative way of looking at it is that it looks like you are actually getting ready for Govt. Certainly that was the effect for National when John Key did the bipartisan deal with Helen Clark on the anti smacking legislation.

    • Stuart Munro 7.1

      It certainly makes it harder for Key to conduct the rubbishing attacks he prefers instead of debate – but I don’t see why Labour is offering them anything. This government should be in prison. The agricultural sector is collapsing. The debt blow out will reach record levels this year as the consequences of eight years of inexcuseably stupid economic policy is felt. Labour need to learn to throw Key anvils, not lifelines.

      • Jamie 7.1.1

        ‘This government should be in prison’ doesn’t get anyone off a zero hour contract. Neither is forcing them to actually ban them giving them a get out of jail free card? And what does that even mean when we’re talking about real people and their livelihoods? Are you suggesting Labour just play politics and working kiwis get stuffed?

        • Stuart Munro 7.1.1.1

          Let’s hear what the CTU have to say first. Labour are lying down with the Gnats and probably going to wake up with a TPP.

          • Jenny Kirk 7.1.1.1.1

            for goodness sake, Stuart Munro. Iain L-G above has said Labour is working with the CTU on this issue.

            Why don’t some of you guys read the post properly. Especially Rhino and SM above and adam below. Perhaps if you read it out loud, you’d really get the sense of it and understand it.

            • Stuart Munro 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Perhaps because Labour has struggled with systemic integrity before. It is a learned behaviour among older Labour supporters. We used to trust them you know – now we check their assertions very carefully first. Is there anything to make us cautious here? Yes, Labour are working with the Gnats. I don’t know how they can stomach them. Not very keen on complicity. There’s been way too much of it. So I’ll wait for the CTU, thanks.

      • Iain Lees-Galloway 7.1.2

        We are offering nothing. If we get what we want we will vote for the bill. No compromise, just making the most of the situation we worked hard to create.

        • Karen 7.1.2.1

          Thanks, Iain. I know you have been working really hard trying to get a better deal for workers. Keep it up

        • Stuart Munro 7.1.2.2

          Very well – let us hope you can get something for the workers – God knows they need all the help they can get under this vicious and dysfunctional regime.

          • Atiawa 7.1.2.2.1

            It’s also time for a shit load of Kiwi workers to begin standing up for themselves by standing together. Too many of them are standing on the side-line waiting for other unionised workers to provide for them.
            Grow a pair and join a union today.

        • Michael 7.1.2.3

          Why don’t you draft an SOP, telling everyone precisely what you will vote for, instead of requiring us to trust you to trust the Nats to see us right on this?

          • mickysavage 7.1.2.3.1

            Glorious failure is better than meaningful change?

            • Michael 7.1.2.3.1.1

              Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Although, in the case of our caucus members, they get to keep sitting on their backsides drawing down their 160K (minimum) pay packets regardless of what happens to workers’ conditions.

    • left for deadshark 7.2

      Haven’t you got something better too do Wayne, oh thats right being a former parliamentarian you and work are at the opposite end of the scale.

  8. adam 8

    If a party who at it’s core is suppose to protect the interests of working people gets into bed with a Tory government…

    Oh wait, what a idiot I turned out to be. The labour party does not serve the interests of working people. Silly me. Sorry, get in bed with the Tory scum. Let them dictate once again to working people.

    No wonder there is so much disillusionment.

    No wonder working people don’t enroll, nor vote.

    What a bad joke we are left with in the labour party, what a bloody awful taste in the mouth.

    • Jamie 8.1

      This actually makes no sense. Do you have a single fact or argument to add to this discussion or are you just here to parade your ignorance?

      • adam 8.1.1

        Jamie, so you think it’s fine for labour to support this act, have you seen it? Read it?

        If not I’d advice you to have a wee look.

        Then what I wrote may make sense to you because, as it stands unless labour can get radical change this is a law which will grind working people down again.

        But, again no one can critique labour without abuse – that being call ignorant or crazy.

        Same old, same old.

        Labour and there activists are the boot at the neck of working people of this country.

        • mickysavage 8.1.1.1

          The Act increases paid maternity leave and presents a chance to do something about zero hour contracts. Labour is taking the opportunity to try and do something about the situation.

          They could continue to oppose the bill and it would probably fail. Then the increased paid maternity leave will not occur and the existing law which allows zero hour contracts will continue.

          Easy decision isn’t it?

          • Michael 8.1.1.1.1

            “a chance to do something about zero hour contracts” – it’s not exactly a rallying cry is it? Based on past Labour pferformance we can expect to see fudging, semantic wordplay, and an otherwise unchanged neoliberal status quo, with zero-hours contracts in all but name. This is an area of law where clarity and simple drafting is essential, if workers are to have the slightest chance of retaining a bit of dignity in the workplace. Yet that simple proposition seems to completely elude all those clever members of the Labour caucus, who are telling us they can out-manoeuvre the Right on legislation they’ve been preparing for years.

            • mickysavage 8.1.1.1.1.1

              And you are condemning Labour without even seeing the detail. By all means keep your skepticism intact but wait for the detail before writing Labour off.

        • Jamie 8.1.1.2

          The changes haven’t been published yet because they’re being negotiated. Labour and the CTU won’t back it unless it bans zero hours. What you’re saying is the CTU is selling its members out too? Why not wait and see before just hurling abuse?

          • Karen 8.1.1.2.1

            It seems to me that whenever Adam is pulled up for making some idiotic and ill-informed statement he plays the victim while concurrently making personal attacks on whoever pointed out that what he was saying was incorrect.

          • Michael 8.1.1.2.2

            I’d feel more confident if Helen Kelly was still runing the CTU instead of that bloke from the PSA.

            • Atiawa 8.1.1.2.2.1

              And I would feel more confident if working people stopped being so reliant upon a Labour party whose in opposition. It’s all well and good relying on a Labour Government but nothing beats a strong industrial response from workers through their collective action.

  9. Rosie 9

    Thanks for talking us through the reasoning and the strategy Iain. It needed clarifying. I admit, I was a bit baffled yesterday.

    We have so far to go to restoring workers rights and improving conditions and pay. As well as a review of and potential overhaul of employment legislation once this government is removed in 2017 there will need to be a culture shift among employers, and workers expectations, sense of self worth and dignity will need to be restored too. We’ve really been hammered in the last decade.

    If protections around zero hours can be put in place it will be a good basis for future change.

    Good luck.

    • Anne 9.1

      Nice summing up. Thanks Rosie. I, too, was a little perplexed. It does indicate Labour need to be more publicly explicit about their reasons for acting in a certain way, or choosing to support a National initiative albeit with amendments. It’s no good just assuming people will have the nous to work it out for themselves because we know many of them don’t.

      • Sacha 9.1.1

        “Labour need to be more publicly explicit about their reasons for acting in a certain way”

        No shit sherlock. It’s called political comms and for some reason that particular party has been unable to perform it for the last 8 years.

    • Venezia 9.2

      I agree with Rosie. Good to have this clarified. What was printed in The Press today could mean anything. If Labour can achieve what you have outlined Iain, then that will be a meaningful victory for workers. Good luck.

      • Puddleglum 9.2.1

        I think the headline in the printed version of The Press today was words to the effect (I don’t have it in front of me) – ‘Labour caves in to ‘zero hours’ bill …’

  10. greywarshark 10

    It’s like cutting down trees that have taken decades to grow. Then preparing the ground and replanting with the right species, and watching that the growth isn’t lost because of pests or lack of nutrients.

    Our workers rights can be wiped so easily, and then must be pains-takingly built when the time is right. We must accept humbly that we need to accept anything that goes in the right direction, and then just press on. We now need to take lessons from Maori who did just that and won through with more than other indigenous people. If there isn’t pressure to do better constantly maintained, you don’t get.

    So Jamie seems to be saying that, and Rhinocrates has a bigger vision. Okay we want it too, but have to achieve it piecemeal.

    • Jenny Kirk 10.1

      oh yes, greywarshark – that’s a good way of putting it. But we don’t want to wait 150 years to get sorted properly ….. and Andrew Little and his team are working on making things happen now. If the Govt doesn’t play ball on this one, then Labour won’t go ahead with it.

  11. One Anonymous Bloke 11

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

  12. Wainwright 12

    Brilliant strategy right up until Dunners or the Maori Party roll over for some extra treats on thrid reading. At which point Labour has facilitated the entrenchment of zero hour contracts into Kiwi law and no one cares about your ‘good faith.’

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Like assuming that you will be able to meaningfully renegotiate the TTPA after its signed, so let’s stay in it.

      • Nic the NZer 12.1.1

        To be fair thats not something labour can do much about. Hopefully labour get a decent compromise here (or retain the option to vote it down otherwise). If not they should expect a long series of discussions here about how they are constantly undermining their constituants (and loss of support from the left). I’m trying to be optimistic here as this one has a lot of popular support for a stand against it. Maybe Labour should also be drafting and publishing the further changes they will make (an alternate bill) ready to be rushed through once elected? They should be adding to a list for every change National brings in already so they can start out having got the clean up operation already sorted?

        • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1

          To be fair thats not something labour can do much about.

          Which bit of it is the bit that Labour can’t do much about? Labour in Government could withdraw NZ from the TPP, for instance.

          They should be adding to a list for every change National brings in already so they can start out having got the clean up operation already sorted?

          In reality I think Labour need to deliver to Kiwis an alternative vision and an alternative paradigm to National. Tidying up after National’s messes is not really going to do much for the country.

          Especially when Labour Governments don’t usually hang around for very long before Kiwis vote National back in again.

          • Nic the NZer 12.1.1.1.1

            Cave ins by other parties.

            The point of agreeing the reforms in advance is it makes tangible what people are getting for their vote. It also makes it hard to argue the changes are coming as a surprise. Some employers may even not want to take the chance that Labour are elected with their contracts.

          • mickysavage 12.1.1.1.2

            Why not pass judgment when you see what Labour agrees to? Right now there is agreement to negotiate. Until we see the actual proposal castigating Labour for “selling out” is slightly premature.

            • Michael 12.1.1.1.2.1

              OK. I will wait and see how this brilliant piece of legislative maneouvering turns out. So far all we know is that Labour is propping up a worker-bashing Bill from the Nats, an action that I find repugnant but not at all surprising in the Party’s centennial year. But this may be all part of the caucus’s cunning plan to resemble sheep in wolves’ clothing.

            • The Chairman 12.1.1.1.2.2

              It’s a bold move supporting National. Therefore, a number will be making judgment, thus it’s vital Labour gets this right.

  13. Sacha 13

    “Let me be very clear”

    That would be a great change for your caucus, yes.

  14. The Chairman 14

    A few of questions, Iain.

    You say Labour want to remove the ability of employers to put people on contracts where they are on-call with no permanent hours.

    Are Labour also seeking fiscal compensation for a workers inconvenience, i.e. putting their life on hold when they are on-call?

    For example, if a worker is given one full day a week in permanent hours, but is expected to be on call for the rest of the week, can they expect to be fiscally compensated for the time they are deemed on call? And if not why not?

    Can you give an example of the context of being on call (with no compensation) is considered fine by Labour?

    As for canceling shifts, can you define what Labour consider last minute? Moreover, what sort of time frame Labour consider as reasonable notification?

  15. The Chairman 15

    The Greens and NZ First opposed the bill, once again, putting Labour at odds with their potential coalition partners.

    One hopes you’re winning in the zero hours contract Iain, because it’s widening the divide, thus reaffirming the perception of a Labour, Greens, NZF coalition rowing in different directions. Which, may result in costing Labour the election.

    • The Chairman 15.1

      Clearly Labour failed to convince their potential coalition partners that they (Labour) would achieve significant improvements.

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