National forced to support meal breaks

Written By: - Date published: 11:55 am, April 10th, 2008 - 28 comments
Categories: national, workers' rights - Tags: ,

National has found itself politically unable to oppose the amendment to the Employment Relations Act that will ensure workers are entitled to meal breaks and to breastfeed at work. But they will be offering only ‘cautious‘ support to a Bill that protects such basic rights, and only to select committee stage.

Kate Wilkinson, National’s labour spokesperson, says she’s not even sure of the point of the law. Yet, her party is voting for it because they can’t be seen to be so completely anti-worker, especially over a law that will pass anyway.

Rest assured; National hasn’t seen the light. This is a party that is hesitant even to support meal breaks and only has one piece of labour legislation planned, the 90-day Bill to remove employees’ rights in their first 90 days of employment. If they were to get into power, National would be as anti-worker as ever: they would let the minimum wage erode like they’ve always done, they would work to see that wages drop, and New Zealanders would see no more improvements in their working conditions.

A National Government would never enact a meal breaks law.

28 comments on “National forced to support meal breaks”

  1. Daveo 1

    Remember as well it was National that scrapped the right to meal breaks in the first place.

  2. Sam Dixon 2

    Personally, I’m terrified of what a 90-day law would do our work rights. Bosses will have 3 months to fire you for no reason – imagine the ways that will be used to keep conditions and wages down. And it is the only, ONLY, piece of legislation that National has ready to enact if it gets into power.

    I also reckon it would have the unintended consequence of making people a whole lot less willing to change jobs, creating a rigid labour market that would be unable to adapt to changing economic conditions.

  3. Dancer 3

    Workers right are on the agenda in South Australia too – I just saw that “A Parliamentary committee in South Australia says the State should have its own paid maternity leave scheme. The Select Committee on Balancing Work and Life Responsibilities says the scheme would address the skills shortage and attract more workers.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/audio/. We know National voted against the introduction of PPL in NZ – hard to see why they’d behave any differently on meal breaks once it comes back from select committee.

  4. Daveo

    I hear the National party eat babies as well.

    Nevermind the Director General of Health will soon have the power to ban meal breaks as well to combat the obesity epidemic in NZ.

  5. Daveo 5

    hs- it’s a fact that National scrapped the right to meal breaks in the 1990s.

    I don’t see the Director General of Health banning meal breaks to combat obesity. Have you been reading Kiwiblog again?

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    “I hear the National party eat babies as well.”

    misplaced irony. National did remove statutory protection of meal breaks, as well as weakening the unions, letting wages fall, and running a high unemployment economy.

  7. Really HS – I expected better of you than KBR talking points.

  8. hmm 8

    This hysteria about being able to be fired for anything is demeaning to you guys. Surely you should be able to argue against a policy on its actual grounds without resorting to EPMU spun myths … (Maybe that’s wishful thinking around here).

    Have any of you actually gone and read the Bill proposed by Mapp. It specifically maintains the power to seek redress should you be fired on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act.

  9. Tane 9

    hmmm: Mapp did introduce an amendment to his bill for the later readings after its implications became clear, but this was only after serious questions were raised about it.

    And the fact remains, under National’s proposed law your boss could fire you at a whim and without reason. Where’s the natural justice in that?

    As Chris Trotter noted at the time, that’s not an employment relationship, it’s a master/serf relationship.

  10. randal 10

    nats belong to that class or set of persons who derive psychological satisfaction from dominating others for sadistic pleasure at what ever cost to the economy or the individual as long as their unconscious desires are met. If they are sufficiently well insulated from economic repercussions then so much the better. i.e. if they are WINNERS then what better fun than bashing losers?

  11. Scribe 11

    randal,

    if they are WINNERS then what better fun than bashing losers?

    Kind of like when Cullen said, “We won, you lost, eat that’, you mean?

  12. Bill 12

    hmmm “…the power to seek redress should you be fired on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act”

    Which covers…not a lot. Almost all unjustified sackings do not come under discrimination as prescribed in the Human Rights Act.

    Anyway. That proviso would only have been put in because it was a legal necessity. No other reason.

  13. Tim 13

    Hmmm: You could still bring a claim for sexual or racial harassment/discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993 under Mapp’s bill, but you could be sacked for joining a union, asking for a pay rise, refusing a pay decrease, turning up to work 1 minute late, complaining about incorrect holiday pay, being overweight, having pimples or any other “reason”.

    You could also be employed on an endless succession of 3 month probationary agreements.

    National’s rationale for the bill was that it would help employers hire “risky” employees, like those who were “too old, too young or too brown”. That is actually what Don Brash said. It was an inane bill.

    Don’t forget National will not increase the minimum wage and will repeal provisions in the ERA, most significantly the protections for low paid workers in contracting out situations.

  14. Leftie 14

    On the 90 day probationary employment thing….

    Imagine trying to get a loan while on probation, particularly a home loan. Imagine the reaction of the lender, as naturally they would look at the risk aspect. It makes a mockery of the National Party and its campaign of making it easier to get into your own home.

  15. Razorlight 15

    I have sat through mindless job interviews answering questions about my strengths and weaknesses. How I would deal with a fellow employee I have a personality clash with, and describing one thing I am very proud of in my work life etc etc.

    When in relaity all I wanted from the employer was for them to give me the chance. Let me show I am up to the job and me sitting in this seat describing myself with cliches isnt doing that.

    Give me the chance. If I am no good, then fine move me on.

    I have always thought a trial period is a perfect way for both employers and employees to work out whether they are compatible. I would think 45 days is enough but the principle is very sound.

    This isnt a conspiracy to destroy workers rights. If any of you have gone through the exhausting and often fruitless job of finding employees you will know employers don’t do it for fun.

    You are scaremongering by saying people will be sacked on day 89 of their employment. The reality is employers need employees. (As some of you Unionists remind us regularly). They are not in the business of sacking them. It does not make economic sence.

  16. Leftie 16

    Razorlight
    Maybe in an ideal world we could pretend that all employers are fair and reasonable. Its a fact that not all employers value their employees as their most valuable asset. It’s not an exaggeration to say that companies like “Spotless” would exploit National’s proposed 90 day probationary employment law as they currently push the boundaries and/or step over the line.

  17. Matthew Pilott 17

    Razorlight, been there and done that! And I fully sympathise with you, because you know in your mind that if you got the job you’d kick ass – but you have to get that break. If you were in my position, you weren’t talking about a low- to minimum-wage job back there. It is this sort of employment that worries people when workplace legislation such as the 90-day bill is brought up.

    For the kind of interviews I was going through, they would be no more likely to hire me with a 90-day probationary period – a typical round of interviews for a professional job must cost thousands and be a right arse to arrange. So they will still go for the best every time; they won’t take the first half-decent candidate because they know they can turf them easily if it doesn’t work out.

    When you have high turnover as it is, and are always getting vulnerable people through the door looking for largely unskilled work (where training isn’t a big drain on company resources), then the problems can occur. Interviews there are cheap (no psychometrics, no Hays job skill assessing), and employees would become even cheaper…

  18. Macro 18

    HS
    I take it from your previous posts that you are from a medical background. I would refer you to the higher incidence of renal failure in shop workers, truck drivers, etc who are forbade by there employers to take necessary toilet breaks. I would have thought that from a purely medical point of view you would have welcomed this legislation. You may not be aware – in fact you are probably too much preoccupied with thoughts on a higher plane – but shop workers and especially those in the hospitality industry – cafe staff etc are the matchstick girls of the modern era. Many of these young women serving you your cup of coffee have no employment contract as such, and no entitlement to a break whatever and are paid the minimum wage. DESPITE THE PROTESTATIONS OF THE NATIONAL PARTY TO THE CONTRARY. If you don’t believe me – just ask a few of the young people serving you next time if they are on a contract and do they have planned breaks – you may be surprised with the answer. Now they will at least be entitled to have a couple of short breaks during their weekend stint of 12 hours when they serve the “well off” their so essential latte. This is a great leap forward in worker rights – remember it was just 100 years ago that the blackball workers went on strike for a decent lunch break.

  19. But it takes the present Labour Government to ‘joke’ that hungry kids are “dieting”. Of course they are; they’re not eating cake.

  20. higherstandard 20

    Macro

    No I’m afraid I’m not aware of the high incidence of renal failure in shop workers, truck drivers, etc who are forbade by there employers to take necessary toilet breaks.

    Renal failure is more likely due to issues such as poorly controlled long term Type II diabetes and hypertension.

    PS I support all employees rights to meal breaks but your medical analogy is as fatuous as Parakura’s recent efforts in the house.

  21. Macro 21

    HS
    Well perhaps you might like to look it up!
    I gather it is in fact the case.
    I know of at least 5 people who work in the cafe trade and at times do not have a meal or toilet break for up to 12 hours. Truck drivers on earthmoving sites for instance are similarly affected.
    I listened to Parakura’s reply. He was replying to the question “why are 70,000 children going to school without eating breakfast?”
    I would think that any person faced with this question, yourself included would have replied that there are many reasons – one being that of self image among teenage girls and their dieting, a sad enough situation in itself. The spin placed on his answer – which he still stands by – by the Maori party, the media, and yourself is unbecoming of anyone seeking the truth.

  22. higherstandard 22

    I bow to our superior knowledge of medicine. Perhaps you could quote me the relevant statistics to back up your claim the higher incidence of renal failure in the groups you point out.

    You defence of Parekura is bizarre..

    from Hansard

    Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Has the Minister seen reports that almost 20,000 schoolchildren a week nationwide need feeding during their school day because of empty cupboards at home; and what actions can the Ministry of Education take to respond to the educational disadvantage that more and more New Zealanders are experiencing as a result of escalating child poverty?

    Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are a host of reasons why students and pupils do not have breakfast. They are trying to stay trim, or else there may be poverty in the house. Over and above all those issues, it is the community reply that is important.

    A demonstrably stupid comment right up there with Clarkson’s effort

  23. Macro 23

    ok! demonstrate that it is stupid.
    what is stupid about saying that there are a host of reasons why students and children do not have breakfast?
    he acknowledges that some may be as the result of poverty – but to say that it is all because of poverty is stupid!

  24. Tane 24

    Parekura’s comments were unwise, but I think it’s pretty clear what he meant was that students skip breakfast for a variety of reasons, one of which is poverty. This is in fact true – as the Principal of Wellington High said on RNZ the other day, lots of teenagers come to school without breakfast because they’re just not hungry in the mornings. This was my experience back when I was at school.

    I think Parekura should perhaps be a little more careful with his words in future. Clarkson, on the other hand, is a buffoon and a bigot, and the sooner he’s kicked out of Parliament the better.

  25. higherstandard 25

    Macro, Tane

    We are not talking about vain high school students.

    My apologies I thought this information was in the public arena as attached.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0804/S00186.htm

    I would encourage everyone to donate to Kidscan – I’ve been a member for a while now, they do some great work.

    http://www.kidscan.org.nz/

  26. Tane 26

    HS, I agree there is real poverty and kids going to school hungry, I’ve seen this first hand myself. But I don’t think Parekura was denying that. He probably should have chosen his words better though, and been a bit less flippant about such a serious issue.

  27. Macro 27

    Tane and HS
    I’ve been a social worker and a teacher for nearly 40 years. I have worked in the poorest and also the wealthiest schools in the country. I can recall of only one instance where I could honesty say a child went to school hungry every day because there was no food in the house. (And that was because the father drank every cent he was given.)
    In my experience, there were numerous instances of students arriving at school every day without breakfast – but seldom because of a lack of food in the home. To have suggested otherwise would have been insulting. Most students arrive without breakfast because they are late getting up, or they think that this is the best way to gain a slim figure.
    In 1999 there were 161,000 official unemployed – today 19,000. I agree that there are young people living in what one might term “poverty” situations (in many cases exacerbated by poor spending decisions made by their parents or caregivers), but I find it hard to believe that the situation is getting worse. It reached its peak in the mid to late 1990’s after the “mother” of budgets, and the employer friendly labour laws held wages at a fixed level for a decade while food prices continued to rise.
    As for the higher instance of renal failure in shop workers etc, this was given as a factor for introducing the legislation in the first instance. I have also checked this out with my nephew who is a specialist in this area in London.

  28. higherstandard 28

    Macro

    Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree as my previous post has been eaten by the server for some reason.

    Suffice to say I weigh the evidence of kidscan services where there certainly does appear to be a poverty issue against your own personal experiences.

    Similarly I would be delighted to see evidence of the higher incidence of acute or chronic renal failure in the groups you have identified.

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