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Key on scrapping four weeks annual leave

Written By: - Date published: 11:15 am, September 18th, 2008 - 24 comments
Categories: john key, same old national, workers' rights - Tags:

Thanks to the wonders of Scoopit I’ve just come across this old TVNZ footage of John Key’s first day as National’s finance spokesman. It’s interesting to see where his economic priorities lay:

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

[It’s worth noting that this isn’t some aberration limited to John Key or a pragmatic issue-by-issue decision. National’s anti-worker employment policy, their record of opposing every extension to workers’ rights and their history of letting the minimum wage be eaten by inflation show a clear and consistent body of belief opposed to workers’ rights and in favour of privileging the interests of business and the wealthy. Does anyone really believe they’ve had a social democratic conversion?]

24 comments on “Key on scrapping four weeks annual leave”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    “Does anyone really believe they’ve had a social democratic conversion?”

    Not me.

    Not untill they explain:

    why they’ve changed their minds,

    in what way they were wrong,

    what they now believe

    and why.

    “because we lost an election” doesn’t cut it.

  2. Scribe 2

    I can’t watch the video, but on his first day as finance spokesman, New Zealand didn’t have four weeks’ annual leave. How could he scrap something that didn’t exist yet?

  3. Dom 3

    Scrapping plans for four weeks leave…

    Hey, I’ll need that extra week under National so I can take time off work protest them sending troops wherever the US decide to go to war…not to mention them selling state assets. Gotta improve my placard writing skills…

  4. IrishBill 4

    Scribe, the fourth week was signaled several years ahead of its implementation in order to give employers some lead-in time

  5. scribe. the legislation was in place, Key was for reversing it.. Brash wanted to go back to 2 weeks.. both opposed every move to improve workers’ rights an wages

    .. oh ‘Key is always saying we need to increase wages’, eh? well, talk is cheap, the record speaks for itself

  6. randal 6

    national is supposedly the party of business yet all they can do is bash workers…where is the new business?

  7. Smokie 7

    Four weeks annual leave passed into law in 2003. For the 2005 election John Key promised to scrap it because it was ‘too costly’. To whom I wonder? And how does he measure cost?

    The fact is, John Key’s policy hasn’t changed. He now wants employees to be able to ‘cash in’ their fourth week. And if an employee refuses to cash it in? – Well that 90 day ‘fire at will’ bill will see the end of their employment.

  8. Greg 8

    You must understand that while you may not agree with National’s view point on these policies, they have them because they believe they will benefit workers in the long run. And 90% of economists come to the same conclusion. Just because you believe Nationals policies will not benefit workers does not mean John Key is ‘worker bashing’ – far from it.

  9. Tane 9

    Greg, you can believe what you like. The facts say otherwise – the record shows that removing workers’ rights reduces pay and conditions.

    That these demonstrably false beliefs continue to thrive suggests there’s some basic economic self-interest at stake here. Which might explain why the wealthy and the powerful tend to support these ideas financially, whether through front groups like the CIS and the BRT, or through right-wing political parties like National and ACT.

  10. insider 10

    There was an even better video of JK on the news the other night when Cullen came a cropper trying to blame him for the world financial meltdown because he once worked for a business not run by the government.

    It was of Key as a young forex trader. My goodness, the hair, the glasses. What a change time has made.

  11. yl 11


    can you please explain how scrapping four weeks annual leave will help workers in the long run?

    Please go slow, i cant see any links between those two ideas.

    How will it help there families?

  12. yl 12


    “And 90% of economists come to the same conclusion”

    can i please see the source on this. You have used a percentage so you must the source.

  13. Scribe 13

    From the Department of Labour website:

    From 1 April 2007, all employees are entitled to at least four weeks paid annual holidays a year.

    [Tane: Yes, as stated, there was a long lead-in time for the legislation to take effect.]

  14. appleboy 14

    this where greg disappears or admits he made up that 90% statistic.

  15. Draco T Bastard 15


    That these demonstrably false beliefs continue to thrive suggests there’s some basic economic self-interest at stake here.


    How did the “science’ part of economics begin? According to Nadeau

    “The strategy the economists used was as simple as it was absurd they substituted economic variables for physical ones .A number of well-known mathematicians and physicists told the economists that there was absolutely no basis for making these substitutions. But the economists ignored such criticisms and proceeded to claim that they had transformed their field of study into a rigorously mathematical scientific discipline.”

    Or maybe it’s because the economists are still using economic formula that just don’t work in the field of economics.

  16. Andrew 16

    “workers rights” what are they? Can the “standard” publish a definitive list?


    [lprent: The “Standard” is a program running on a machine. It is dumb and doesn’t hear your requests. You could address it to a person. But You should also read this section in the About. It will answer your query quite adequetely. ]

  17. yl 17


    what do you mean?

    Do you mean a list of current ‘workers rights’?

    Do you mean national proposed list of ‘workers rights’?

    Do you mean from a theoretical view of ‘workers rights’?

    What do you mean?

    captcha: one hollywood

  18. Greg 18

    90% was a figure of speech. What I meant was ‘almost all’. If you look check out http://antidismal.blogspot.com/2008/08/economics-does-not-lie.html you’ll see 10 propositions that almost all top economists believe. The source stems from Columbia University, credible enough? In this case I refer to the proposition “Unemployment among unskilled workers is largely determined by how much labor costs.”.

    To take an example, increasing annual leave is increasing the cost of labour. Employers must employ someone else to work that extra week right? When the costs of labour increase, employers cannot afford to hire as much labour therefore unemployment increases. So some employees are marginally better off with an increase in annual leave but some employees are much worse off as they now have no job. You would assume the unions would want to avoid higher unemployment, but as they only represent those in employment it is of little consequence to them. This is why you see unions such as the EPMU pursuing such policies.

  19. Tim 19

    “Unemployment among unskilled workers is largely determined by how much labour costs” – empirical evidence doesn’t back that assertion at all. Wages have increased and unemployment has dropped over the past 8 years.

    Employers want high unemployment so there is more competition for jobs, and hence they can pay less. This is the rationale behind ‘work for the dole’ schemes as well.

    It’s a pity these economists ignore the social outcomes of low wages and high unemployment.

    I agree with Greg to some extent in that the proper role of a union should be to represent both the employed and unemployed, but I don’t agree that unions and their members should be required to moderate wage demands for fear of unemployment. I also think that unions are very interested in keeping unemployment down, given the widespread social disruption caused to their members during periods of high unemployment.

  20. CarlF 20

    Greg –
    The “top economists” cited are all apologists for unfettered capitalism of the type presently in freefall in the US and elsewhere. Excluded are critics like Stieglitz.
    To claim that “Unemployment among unskilled workers is largely determined by how much labor costs’ suggests that wage rates need not be related to the cost of living and that factors like CEO salaries, profit margins and benefits to shareholders are of no consequence. It also suits employers as it blames the victim and frees business-oriented governments of responsibility.

  21. the sprout 21

    the sooner our middle class wake up to the fact that Key’s policies offer them more bad than good, the better.

  22. robert 22

    there is a logical connection between increasing the cost of employment to decreasing workforce but it doesn’t have to be that way. profits could reduce. if we follwo the argument to its extreme then there should be no minimum protection for workers as every cent spent on a worker is coming from another worker. we would end up with everybody employed (probably over employed) for sweet f.a.

  23. Greg 23

    Tim – “empirical evidence doesn’t back that assertion at all. Wages have increased and unemployment has dropped over the past 8 years.”

    That is correct, but this is because the ‘cost’ of employment has decreased. Greater productivity means wages can increase as employers can afford to do so. It also means that they can afford to pay more. The ‘cost’ to employers has actually decreased over the past 8 years.

    CarlF – “The “top economists’ cited are all apologists for unfettered capitalism of the type presently in freefall in the US and elsewhere. Excluded are critics like Stieglitz.
    To claim that “Unemployment among unskilled workers is largely determined by how much labor costs’ suggests that wage rates need not be related to the cost of living and that factors like CEO salaries, profit margins and benefits to shareholders are of no consequence. It also suits employers as it blames the victim and frees business-oriented governments of responsibility.”

    As always there is another side to the story. The point this study was making was that NEARLY all top economists believe in these principles. (Hey there’s scientists that don’t believe in climate change right?)

    As for your other statements, the problem with these is that they do not take into account opportunity cost. If you decrease the profits of a company, the salaries of CEO’s etc, the opportunity cost will be to great and people will not invest, and you will struggle to find good CEO’s etc. In a competitive market these ‘profits’ will always be at the absolute minimum they can be. Otherwise another firm would increase wages and take the cream of the employees. Taking away from ‘profits’ etc to give to employees cannot occur otherwise the business would fail.

    Robert – Suprinsingly Robert, I think thats exactly what should happen. But good workers would not be employed for sweet f all.

  24. sean 24

    Do you guys ever think things through?

    “History of letting the minimum wage be eaten by inflation” – if you actually bothered to think this through you would realise that increasing the minimum wage causes inflation. You will never be able to raise it to a level where it is enough to beat inflation.

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