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Labour’s labour policy good for labourers

Written By: - Date published: 7:50 pm, October 27th, 2008 - 19 comments
Categories: economy, election 2008, labour, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Labour has unveiled its work rights policy, and it’s a good one:

– minimum wage increases at least at the rate of inflation or the average wage increase, whichever is higher. That would bring it to nearly $15 a year by 2011.
Why they didn’t just commit to $15 like the rest of the Left, I don’t know

– enable multi-employer collective bargaining.
Forcing union members to negotiate separate deals for the same work at different workplaces was one way the Right tried to break the unions when it introduced the Employment Contracts Act. It creates a tremendous strain on resources for unions. MECAs remove that strain and lead to better deals.

– prevent freeloading.
Currently, many businesses automatically pass gains made by union members on to non-union members. It is a union-breaking tactic that discourages union membership, which ultimately leads to worse work conditions. Preventing freeloading will encourage union membership and put workers in stronger negotiating positions.

-full employment rights for workers in triangular employment arrangements, on contracts, or employed by labour hire companies.
Currently, most labourers and other low-skill workers are employed in these kinds of arrangements and they have no job security, it is excellent that Labour would change that.

– statutory minimum standards for redundancy.

– retraining allowance for workers who have been in the workforce for at least five years and have been made redundant or have been in the workforce for ten years and wish to upgrade their skills or retrain in a new area.

– permit strike action, if necessary, when employers initiate restructuring/outsourcing which undermines a collective agreement, during the term of that agreement.

All excellent policies that have been welcomed by workers’ rights groups. I do have to say, though, what is wrong with Labour’s thinking that they release their labour policy in the afternoon on Sunday and it isn’t fronted by the PM? No wonder it got zero coverage You’re the Labour party: release your labour policy on Labour day at a major speech by the PM to workers. 

Not too late for a re-luanch, though.

19 comments on “Labour’s labour policy good for labourers ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Why they didn’t just commit to $15 like the rest of the Left, I don’t know

    Setting it to an automatic adjustment is a good idea but the base rate that it starts at needs to higher than the $12/hour that the minimum wage is now. Having a $15/hour rate in 3 years isn’t going to make it any better than it is now. It needs to be set at $15 now and then have the automatic adjustment apply.

    – prevent freeloading.

    A good idea but how are they going to achieve this?

  2. bobo 2

    Anyone watch the minor party debate tonight ? I thought it was much better controlled than the first shout fest. Wodney came out looking disgruntled most the time as all the minor parties except Act (as far as I can tell) pledged to raise minimum wage.

    – Just on another international note with the US election the cynic in me thinks how convenient it would be for the Republican regime to manufacturer a foreign affairs crisis as could be the case today with US special forces invading and killing Sierrans which might influence voters towards Mccain with his supposed strength on foreign policy. Use fear to get in.

  3. toad 3

    Bugger! They’ve stolen much of the Greens’ industrial relations policy.

    Greens come up with good ideas, and Labour nicks them. Oh, well, so be it, Hopefully the voters will work out whose policies they really were.

    And a very definig difference is that the Greens want the minimum wage to be $15 an hour in 2009 – not 2011 as Labour are proposing.

  4. Bill 4

    Having just given the policy a quick read through, a couple of questions spring to mind.

    When they say they will offer a retraining allowance to workers who have been “in the workforce for at least five years” does that mean that a 32 year old who has lost their job of three years and who was unemployed for one year before that does not qualify for the allowance? Or does it mean that anyone who has been out of school for more than five years and loses a job qualifies?

    I suspect the former scenario is what they have in mind which will mean a hell of a lot of redundant workers won’t qualify.

    On ensuring that strike action will not be prevented, if necessary. Who or what agency do they believe should have the authority to determine between necessary and unnecessary strike action? From the wording, obviously not workers or their union.

    Bit soft on the possibility of workers from temp agencies and labour hire firms being covered by existing Collective Agreements. “This could involve amendments to employment law…” Could!? I suspect they don’t really like the idea at all.

    Positive points? Min redundancy rights. About bloody time!

    Min wage rising in line with CPI or average increases. During a recession? When inflation might be expected to take off….although I guess deflation is also a possibility. Anyway. If some of the signposted changes come to fruition, min wage employees in non-union workplaces might find it easier to organise thereby pushing their rates up regardless. Maybe.

  5. Bill 5

    I don’t think it’s a case of them nicking the Green’s policy. The Green policy is kind of straight down the line whereas the Labour policy has an air of hesitancy…ifs and buts and fudge.

    Maybe I’m being unfair, but it reads as talk with no intention of walk if you know what I mean.

  6. Ianmac 6

    bobo: Yes. How come there was no shouting between 6 Mp’s tonight yet Mark could not control 2 MP’s. (Remember on this site we were told that in the 2X Leaders Debate John overshouted Helen on items 1,2,3,5. Not interjections -shouting continually.)
    Yes Wodney looked a bit sulky and it seemed that he wanted the Senior politician’s status though not deserved. He did seem to get a larger chunk of time. Amazing that Jim can still hold his own and then some. Dunne looked ridiculous and I am sure that he could not achieve a Houdini tonight.
    On other days Wodney has said that he would eliminate the min. wage. Tonight he said he would leave it as is. All the others said raise it to $15.
    The two women were the most succinct and most credible.

  7. toad. Greens policy is better, that (and their environmental policy) is why I’ll be voting for them

  8. Christopher Nimmo 8

    bobo – I thought the debate was awful.

    Sainsbury was downright insulting to all the party leaders right from the start, with the exception of Rodney, who was pretty much allowed to speak for the entirety of the first half. During that first half Jeanette, whose share of the vote is equal to all of the other “minor” parties combined, got barely a minute of speaking time. A third of the debate was taken up with wrangling about “bottom lines” and “choosing sides” rather than policy, and while Hide was allowed to repeatedly talk about ditching the ETS, nobody else got the chance to talk about anything to do with the environment. Tariana’s continual refusal to talk about anybody other than Maori was also quite alarming, along with her claims of underrepresentation.

    And if Dunne, Peters, Hide and Anderton qualified for the debate, why on earth not Philip Field (who probably has a better chance at parliament than Peters) and Copeland/Baldock?

  9. leftie 9

    The important part is that Labour are committing themselves to a $15 minimum wage, which is a positive and genuine step to close the wage gap with Australia. Looking at Labour’s record over the last 9 years, I am confident they will do this, and they may do it before their said goal. National’s solution is recycled and empty.

    I also question how Labour will reduce the freeloading plague that has become entrenched in New Zealand.

    We workers deserve better than the weak drivel that National offers.

  10. bobo 10

    I have alot of respect for Jim Anderton he always comes over well on the rare occasions on TV and is a good logical debater in the house I was confused when Turia tried to say the paid parental leave was their idea , I thought it went back to the alliance before the Maori party existed?

    Also another interesting point on the debate was how Peter Dunne cant stand the greens because of the dope smoking policy , and how he thought upping the drinking age wouldn’t make any difference, at the last election wasn’t he funded by the alcohol & tobacco lobby? From memory I think he was against the bars smokefree policy I might be wrong, mr Family Values.

    Chris – In a 1.5 hour show minus adverts with 6 MPs your not going to get even time to each, some more pushy personalities get the airtime , i’m not a Sainsbury fan either hes way too cuddly and soft, someone like Paul Henry would have been a better moderator challenging them on their facts.

  11. Pascal's bookie 11

    Toad. I hear what you are saying, but think of it this way if it helps.

    The Green Party can go out further from the centre policy wise than Labour. It’s expected to by both it’s supporters and it’s opponents. By doing so, and staying represented in parliament, those policies become legitimate parts of the acceptable spectrum. (Unlike for example anything the Libertarians or the Christian parties say). The fact that Labour and other parties adopt Green policy is evidence that ‘the centre’ is shifting in your direction. In short, you’re winning where it counts.

    Prophets don’t get no respect though.

  12. bobo. I think Turia was saying 4 weeks annual leave was Lalia Harre’s policy, not the Progressives’ – Harre led the Alliance after the Progressives split. But Anderton pointed out the Bill was in Progressive MP Matt Robson’s name.

    But since all the Left supported 4 weeks, it was splitting hairs from Turia and a bit weird really.

  13. Julie 13

    Pretty happy with a lot of this policy. In comparison with National’s 4 bullet points it looks meatier too. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about redundancy – many people I encounter think they have an automatic right to redundancy, usually linked to their pay period and their years of service (eg if they are paid fortnightly and have worked in the job for five years they think they are entitled to 10 weeks pay) when there is nada, zip, zilch, zero in the law now. I’m always a bit startled that so many people seem to have invented this law.

  14. Graeme 14

    enable multi-employer collective bargaining

    This is currently not allowed? Better tell university lecturers that.

    prevent freeloading

    I thought there was also something about this in the current law too?


  15. Julie 15

    The current law in terms of freeloading is basically that pass on is not supposed to happen and there is supposed to be meaningful negotiation with those on IEAs. But it really doesn’t happen. For example the Ministry of Education promulgates IEAs based on CEAs, for schools to use for non-members. There is the provision for unions to seek a bargaining fee, so that non-members pay a fee to be covered by the CEA. The hoops to achieve a bargaining fee are pretty numerous, and involve (from memory, I’ve never been involved in one) getting a majority vote amongst all workers (members and non-members) to agree to it, as well as employer agreement. I think the NDU have been successful in winning them in a few places? But they haven’t turned out to be the solution to freeloading that many thought when the ERA came in.

  16. Tane 16

    Hi Graeme, MECAs are allowed in law, but they have to be negotiated with the relevant employers as a claim in collective negotiations. That means MECAs are very hard to get going as is evidenced by the fact that very few MECAs have been negotiated under the ERA – the ones in existence tend to be hangovers from the Awards system.

    Given the ERA is supposed to encourage collective bargaining, and without MECAs that’s not an option for most people, the strengthening of MECA legislation is long overdue.

    Julie’s covered the pass-on issue pretty well.

  17. Observer 17

    “full employment rights for workers in triangular employment arrangements, on contracts, . . . . . .”

    So. Those thousands of IT people, working in Ministries, on anything from $80 to $250 per hour, as contractors, writing off their home big-screen TVs as necessary computer monitors to allow them to do their GST returns, and able to deduct travelling expenses from their taxable income, and able to ’employ’ their partner as an ‘administrator’ to reduce the family tax liability, and able to buy a muscle car and lease it to themselves for 8 hours per day for ‘business purposes’, will now be able to claim employee benefits from the government (me – the employed tax payer) as well!

    Oh what joy. (for them, not me!)

  18. Swampy 18

    Labour party releases their policy quietly hoping it won’t be noticed.
    “- enable multi-employer collective bargaining.
    Forcing union members to negotiate separate deals for the same work at different workplaces was one way the Right tried to break the unions when it introduced the Employment Contracts Act. It creates a tremendous strain on resources for unions. MECAs remove that strain and lead to better deals.”

    The MECA has existed ever since the beginning of the ERA. Labour has tweaked it a few times. There is no more things they could do to it than force them on employers. I wonder if that is the policy? Labour tried to get through the most extreme MECA option back in 2000 but were howled down at the select committee and backed off, then eventually introduced the same provisions in amendments over the next few years. The last pro-union strengthening of MECAs saw a rash of bitter industrial disputes as unions tried to force employers to enter them. It is no secret that all changes to the MECA have sought to advantage unions. As I am sure this latest policy would represent.

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