Lock ’em Up!?

Written By: - Date published: 12:33 pm, February 18th, 2019 - 15 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, business, capitalism, Economy, Media, workers' rights - Tags: ,

I wonder how many people saw this article over the weekend.  

It is about the difficulties workers have getting money owed after winning employment grievance cases.

I confess that I’m an on line reader, and this article is a reminder that I must go past ‘politics’ on line and into ‘business’.

I’m not one for calling for custodial sentences.  Far too many NZers are already in jail and as we know, disproportionately represented by Maori.  It’s a failed system and it’s great to see Kelvin Davis tackling this in an innovative way.

But this shocked me (and not for the first time mind you).

There are areas where we need to talk a lot more about what’s happening with the crimes being committed against workers every day.

The Herald story covers several workers who won employment cases in the Employment Relations Authority, but then found out that a finding against a boss for breaching employment law and unjustifiably sacking them, was ultimately meaningless.  

The employers involved, including former National MP Aaron Gilmore, have felt free to muck around with obeying the Court and allowing these workers to get their lives back.

The Herald story includes both small and large lawyers, and while MBIE says there are options available to the workers, such as seeking enforcement through a district court, or asking for a compliance order from the ERA or the Employment Court, I have to wonder if MBIE have any idea of the costs, time and angst involved? 

I’m assuming none of these workers were represented by a union and let’s be honest, there’s probably a million workers who think they can rely on our employment disputes legislation if they need it, honestly believing that there will be a fair outcome. 

Some of the poor buggers will have gone off to the ‘No Win No Fee’ advocates or ‘0800 sacked’ for advice.  I imagine, given this is a user pays system where only a win counts, they will have been abandoned when bad employers fail to pay up.

It takes a fortune to pursue these kinds of cases especially when workers are up against well resourced companies, such as those on NZ’s rich list. 

For example, even with a major union’s resources put to work, it took five years to win pay equity for aged care and support workers. And that battle went all the way to the Supreme Court. 

Talleys’ AFFCO workers who were unlawfully locked out in 2015 are finally reaching a place where they might be compensated after a score of legal cases, legal manoeuvres and various appeals.  Their union, the MWU, has been relentless about its support for justice, but it is ordinary meat workers union members who pay those bills too.

There is significant reform being proposed in the Family Court and maybe it’s time we looked at how our employment tribunals and courts are working too.

The fundamental objects of the Employment Relations Act haven’t changed in 17 years.  Good faith, honesty and equity before the law are sound principles. 

The question is how we make them real for NZ workers.  




15 comments on “Lock ’em Up!?”

  1. patricia bremner 1

    There should be a reasonable time to pay, say 12 weeks Then Government should be able to seize bank accounts or goods pay the money out and any costs.

    For going over time there should be Community service or additional fees no ifs or buts.
    There should be a Employers and workers court. The decision is final. None of this using wealth to drag out hearings and dodge responsibilities.

    • mosa 1.1

      Spot on Patricia.
      Can’t see it happening though as our whole employment area is dominated by large and small business and the closed mind , brick wall attitude is backed up by the National party.
      Workers have very little rights even under the current labour law and are just viewed as a cheap worthless commodity.

  2. Sabine 2

    if the law is the same for all then yes, by all means lock them up.

    maybe this is why these guys continue to flaunt the law, they consider themselves above it.

    I don’t see the reason to be squeamish about.

  3. lprent 3

    I think that this relates directly to the responsibilities of directors. Having a custodial sentence evaluated to non-payment linked to the legal responsibilities for the oversight of directors sounds like the right level.

  4. R.P Mcmurphy 4

    if you thieved something belonging to the employer then they would use the full power of the law to sanction you.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    The NZ justice system lacks teeth.

    and claws.

    • Andrea 5.1

      How come ladies get given as prizes?
      What does a female accused get?

      What’s the story with bigamy in this ‘kingdom’?
      Are men immune from jealousy?

      And what happens to the person-eating tiger…?

      • Stuart Munro 5.1.1

        Yes, it does generate a lot of fruitful discussion. But it’s more the tiger side of it I’m keen on – Blake’s metaphor for democracy after all.

  6. Andrea 6

    Prison is a waste of time and money. The ‘easy option’ and there’s STILL no certainty that the person who has been ripped off will get paid.

    Getting paid seems to be the more important point – along with protection from harrassment over any debts incurred through having to live on credit.
    Do companies and sole traders have to have insurance cover for this sort of misadventure?

    What to do with anyone (individual or corporate) as scared or uncaring as to hire and not pay?

    Are they serial offenders? Ban them from trading as anything but a one person enterprise, perhaps.

    Ignorant/untrained? That’s no surprise in this country. Business training is left ‘in the lap of the gods’. Pratical business training – not university material. And we’re short of mentors/trainers for doing things kiwi-style, under kiwi law. That needs attention.

    Corporate? How about two to ten years of statutory management to see if the entity can be rescued and the corporate culture can be turned around?
    Otherwise – innocent people will lose their jobs and options.

  7. Incognito 7

    Why not propose some kind of bond (‘bail’) to be held in a lawyer’s trust account that automatically transfers to the litigant upon the verdict in their favour? Surely, some clever legal eagles can sort this? Justice declared must mean justice delivered, within a reasonable time frame.

  8. mpledger 8

    Maybe employers need to pay a bond for every employee they hire so that if the employers do something bad then the bond can be paid to the employee as the first part of their claim. The bond can be held by the employment court.

  9. Michael 9

    Then how about the Parliamentary wing of the Labour movement showing a bit of solidarity with the industrial wing and legislating effective penalties? As if that will ever happen but one way to get the message across is for the unions to withhold funding from the Labour Party until it enacts pro-worker legislation (ACC is a prime candidate IMHO).

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