Just finished reading John Armstrongs article on the union protest last week at Skycity. He is dead wrong about what it means.
In his conference speech, the Prime Minister pitched his package as amounting to modest, moderate and pragmatic change. That night viewers saw the opposition to those reforms coming from the extremes of the labour movement. In the current climate, you don’t have to guess who has more credibility.
At the protest that I briefly attended (one of the few I have attended over the last 20 years), I saw every group in the trade union movement that I know of turning up and largely singing the same tune. It would have to be the first time that I’ve seen that for decades. That is largely because John Key has been outright lying to the more moderate union movement – and they’re now pissed off. So it isn’t the extremes of the union movement that will be working against this proposed legislation – it is the whole of the union movement.
As Matt McCarten says
This was to be a sneak attack because until recently he [John Key] had been reassuring the Council of Trade Union leaders in private that he didn’t have an anti-worker or anti-union agenda.
Unfortunately for him a draft paper outlining his intentions was leaked.
Included in the paper were some nasty policies that Key had specifically promised union leaders would not be considered by his Government, such as union members being able to have their representative at their place of work without an employer’s veto.
The problem is that National have virtually no credibility in writing workable legislation, and a track record of simply ignoring advice through their standard practice of engaging in blind ideological stupidity and sham consultation. You can’t wait for the bills to go through the select committee process and get changes to make legislation workable. National doesn’t listen.
For instance the ‘National Standards’ and the Auckland Supercity legislation were examples of idiotic ideological stupidity being enacted. Both have gaping holes in their effective implementation. This week, the “Three Strikes” legislation seems to have developed similar legal fishhooks in that it now looks looks like most of the people who will suffer its effects will be the mentally ill.
The existing Fire at Will act is a clear example of idiotic legislation. It is a significant change to the labour laws in NZ and needed to be monitored for issues and abuse. So naturally National set it up that there was no monitoring. There was no data collection of how the act was being used and no avenue to highlight abuses. The only survey that has been done on it by the Department of Labour queried 3500 employers and 13 employees. Perhaps they should rename themselves to be the Department of Employers?
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of abuses. But since there is no redress and no channel to send complaints to – so there isn’t any data able to be collected. Quite simply no-one knows if it is achieving the goals that National put it in to achieve, or if it is resulting in the abuses tat the opposition to it said would happen.
Rather than seeking that information about how the change is working, if it is having any useful effect, and seeking solutions to known problems, the Nats wish to extend it. This for reasons that have appear to have more to do with ideological stupidity than rational law-making. On the way through they will attempt to toss in restrictions on unions that effectively make it easier for employers to prevent unions from doing their job in a froth of ineffective ambiguous verbiage with little legal meaning.
National have been steadily destroying the trust that is required to pass effective legislation with input from all sides. It has been clear for some time that going through the process of writing submissions and presenting to select committees to correct flaws in bills is a waste of time. National’s MPs will simply ignore them and push through totally stupid bills to become acts. Most of the time you’re lucky to get that. National has also been assiduous in abusing the process of urgency in parliament to push through bills into legislation with effective input from anyone apart from a small group.
The only effective way of having an input into the legislative process is to mount high profile actions such as the anti-schedule 4 mining march in Auckland, or having direct actions. There are no other effective channels to influence the course of legislation.
That is why Armstrong is dead wrong about his take on the protest last Sunday. National have effectively removed the normal channels of discourse to help amend proposed legislation to something workable. They have made the processes of submissions to select committee pointless. Consequently the quality of bills and legislation being passed has dropped considerably producing
What remains are the processes of direct action. That appears to be the only thing that can make National look away from their blind push of ideological stupidity and take notice of what people outside of their funders are saying. That is why a relatively conservative moderate like myself now thinks that protests are the only realistic recourse to amend stupid legislation. It is a relatively coarse and sloppy process, but it appears to be the only effective one left available for democratic participation.