National makes work rights the defining issue

Written By: - Date published: 1:41 pm, April 21st, 2008 - 31 comments
Categories: election 2008, labour, national, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

workrightsrally.jpgNational’s strategy, the strategy of a weak party, is to present a ‘small target’ by promising to change virtually nothing if they were in government. Problem is, their small target has a great big bull’s-eye on it called work rights.

With flip-flops on health, education, welfare, annual leave, parental leave, assets, Working for Families, Kiwisaver, nuclear ships, student loans, climate change, civil unions, etc, etc already undertaken or to be undertaken before the election, not much remains for National to campaign on as a point of difference with Labour. Tax will be defused as an issue by the cuts in the May Budget coming into effect from October, National will have to accept them and add a pretty meager sweetener of its own.

The one policy area where National has not (and ultimately cannot) follow Labour is work rights and wages. National is the party of employers; lower wages and weaker employment protections are the party’s core reason for existing. Key has already said he ‘would love to see wages drop‘. The only Bill National has ready to pass if it gets into Government is the 90-day no-rights Bill. National has said it would weaken unions and equivocated over whether it would lift the minimum wage if it were government. That’s a stark contrast to Labour, which has brought New Zealanders more annual leave, higher pay, increased minimum wage, better working conditions, more power in the workplace, and record low unemployment. So, in the one area in which National remains strongly differentiated from Labour, its policy is deeply unpopular and Labour has a very strong record.

Work rights is the one issue National absolutely cannot afford to have this election campaign decided on; and it’s the one issue they’ve left open for the campaign to be all about. All that’s needed is for Labour to take the initiative with a visionary work rights policy.

31 comments on “National makes work rights the defining issue”

  1. Stephen 1

    On minimum wage…

    “In a move to distance himself from the views of Dr Brash and shift National’s policy away from the hard right, Mr Key said: “I’m not one of the hardcore, hard right wingers who says ‘get rid of the minimum wage; you don’t need it.’ Some people take that view, I personally think it has a place and I don’t have problems with it rising.””

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0609/S00307.htm

  2. Monty 2

    National will not go and repeal entirely the current employment legislation, and they have no good reason to (unlike in 1990 when the economy was well in recession thanks to the outgoing Labour Government) but certainly some tinkering around the edges will help make NZmore competitive and take away the trap that employers find themselves in when employing the wrong person for a variety of reasons.

    It is well accepted by the elecrotate that labour will introduce very employee friendly labour law, and national will re-balance that when they get the reigns of power.

    Always remember that no one is forced to work for a bad employer – they can always go and get works elsewhere if the employee does not like it.

    The electorate does understand this, and yet most people are not threatened by it. That is because in most cases employee and employer get on well and each is economically rewarded for their input.

  3. Tane 3

    Stephen:

    National Party labour and industrial relations spokeswoman Kate Wilkinson said National did not oppose the minimum wage but preferred tax cuts.

    “Our policy will be on a broader scale and looking at the bigger picture rather than just relying on this artificial solution of having an arbitrary level of what some people think is a fair wage and some people think is not.’

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4329930a10.html

    Sounds to me like National plans to use tax cuts as a substitute for higher wages – effectively using public money to subsidise employers who pay low wages.

    See their record on raising the minimum wage here: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=906

  4. Stephen 4

    On “working for a bad employer”, is that so easy to do in ‘bad times’?

  5. Yep – that’s why he voted against youth rates being abolished. Just like he’s voted against every other piece of pro-worker legislation. He’s just lucky minimum wage rises are not voted on otherwise there would be another clear example of him saying one thing and doing another.

  6. Tane 6

    It is well accepted by the elecrotate that labour will introduce very employee friendly labour law, and national will re-balance that when they get the reigns of power.

    Rebalance? Ha! New Zealand has some of the most right-wing labour law in the industrialised world.

  7. Steve Pierson 7

    Key did question whether the minimum wage be as high as $12 an hour. doesn’t seem like he’ll be gung ho about raising it if he is PM.

    “It is well accepted by the elecrotate that labour will introduce very employee friendly labour law, and national will re-balance that when they get the reigns of power.” – why is ‘re-balancing’ needed? Why would any working new zealander vote for a ‘rebalancing’ of power away from themselves to the bosses?

  8. Scribe 8

    Tane,

    Sounds to me like National plans to use tax cuts as a substitute for higher wages – effectively using public money subsidise employers who pay low wages.

    See, that’s where the Left and the Right differ on taxation. Cutting tax is not using public money to subsidise employers who pay low wages; it’s allowing New Zealanders to keep their OWN money that they’ve worked hard for.

    The Left see wages as something that they can take a (growing) cut from; the Right see wages as something that people should get to keep the vast majority of, with the Government only taking what’s needed to run a country.

  9. Steve Pierson 9

    Scribe. How is a tax cut that lifts after tax wages by 5% (eg a $25 a week cut on an $500 a week net pay packet) going to close the wage gap with Australia? It’s not, but we can’t afford tax cuts larger than than both fiscally and because of inflationary impact. Only rising wages can close the gap.

    And remember, tax cuts aren’t free. any substantial cut has to come out of spending.

  10. Tane 10

    Scribe, you’re misrepresenting my statement and making a rather simplistic conclusion.

    I’m simply interpreting Wilkinson’s words – that instead of requiring employers to pay their workers decently by lifting the minimum wage, National would allow employers to keep paying poverty wages and cut taxes to relieve that wage pressure.

    The removal of regular minimum wage increases and its substitution with tax cuts would have the effect of the taxpayer subsidising employers who pay poverty wages. It’s also unsustainable – once you’ve got low income workers paying 0% tax how do you go about raising their incomes?

    Of course, I’m not against cutting taxes for low income workers, but the minimum wage should rise too – the two things are not the same. One is the amount of money a worker gets for his or her labour; the other is the amount the worker contributes to society for public services.

  11. mike 11

    Bad timing for Labour to start strenthening Empolyment conditions. With the economy tanking Employers will need all the help they can get just to hold on to their staff.
    I think Labour will leave the unions to do their dirty work here.

  12. infused 12

    “Only rising wages can close the gap.”

    Yes, but forcing them up isn’t the way to do it.

  13. Tane 13

    Ideally you’d raise them through intervening in the labour market – that’s what unions are about – and use industry agreements to stop firms competing on wage levels and get them investing in productivity.

    At the lower end though you do need minimum wage legislation to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation.

  14. So if Labour is doing such a good job of keeping workers happy, why have the numbers heading off to Australia consistently increased during the term of the Labour led government ?

    http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2008/04/21/video-net-migration-to-australia-accelerating/

    [interest.co.nz is a joke. the guy was attributing the drop in unemployment in NZ to emigration to Australia the other day, as if there wasn’t emigration to Australia in the past and as if we don’t take in more workers through immgration every year than we lose through emigration. SP]

  15. Tane 15

    Because migration to Australia is cyclical.
    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1255

  16. Scribe 16

    Steve,

    And remember, tax cuts aren’t free. any substantial cut has to come out of spending.

    That’s true IF the country doesn’t have multi-billion dollar surpluses, which we’ve had over the past several years. In that case, a government can do both.

    IMHO, there should be a tax-free window at the bottom end so that all workers benefit and then work done to avoid bracket creep.

    Tane,

    Kate Wilkinson said “Our policy will be on a broader scale and looking at the bigger picture rather than just relying on this artificial solution of having an arbitrary level of what some people think is a fair wage and some people think is not.”(emphasis mine)

    Sounds to me like a “both/and” solution rather than an “either/or” one.

  17. Tane 17

    There’s also the issue of wages – in many industries you can cross the ditch and get a 30-50% pay rise. I’d like to see a plan from both parties showing how they’d close that wage gap – all we’ve seen from National is promises to cut taxes.

  18. Tane 18

    Sounds to me like a “both/and’ solution rather than an “either/or’ one.

    Scribe, that may be the case – it’s hard to get any concrete policy out of National. What we do know is that for low income workers wages will rise slower under National than they did under Labour.

    And if the 1990s is anything to go by, those on or close to the minimum wage may even see their pay cut in real terms.

  19. Tane looking at the post & chart you linked to I notice you only have one (1) complete so-called “cycle” shown. How does that prove that migration is cyclical ?

  20. Scribe 20

    Tane,

    You’re right that it’s hard to get any concrete policy out of National, but history suggests that such a situation is not unusual six or seven months out from an election. Not saying that’s the right thing to do, just saying it’s not something National is the sole offender on (and not saying you’re suggesting that).

    You’re right (again — this is getting boring) that some industries lag way behind Aussie in terms of wages. To use your 2.57pm comment as a model, we can say that “what we do know” is that things have got worse in the last 8.5 years under Labour, so any policy it unveils now would beg the question: “If that’s going to fix the problem, why has it taken eight-and-a-half years to propose it?”

    In fact, that’s a problem Labour (and any third-term government) has on just about any issue of substance.

  21. Steve Pierson 21

    Scribe. it is unusual to have no idea where a party and its leader stand ideologically – specific polices, yes, you can wait for those – but the objection is that National will not even give hints of where it stands on some issues,a nd considering it’s lurched from right to centre to right in the past decade New Zealanders can’t even get a general fix on what the party stands for anymore.

  22. So very boring maw – you’re not here to do anything but offer increasingly desperate challenges are you. How about you get off you fat lazy arse and get your own stats. Then you can make your own graph and if it doesn’t show cyclical migration you can have a well won gloat.

    In the meantime your habit of expecting other people to do the heavy lifting while you snipe at the sidelines is making you look like an intellectual bludger. Have you sense of personal responsibility. Have you no shame?

    If this was my blog I’d’ve kicked you off days ago for being nothing but trolling deadweight…

  23. Tane 23

    mawgxxxxiv: Sorry to be a bit vague on you, but I heard an interview on Radio NZ’s focus on politics a month or so back where a professor basically said the same thing – apparently it’s cyclical going back decades. Feel free to do your own research.

    Scribe: I’ll agree Labour could have done more – they’re a timid bunch if nothing else. That’s why I think we need some concrete policy out of both parties – Labour can’t rest on its laurels, and National shouldn’t be able to get away with soundbites and spin.

    The wage gap has stopped growing though, so I can’t agree that things have got worse, even if they could be done better.

  24. Scribe 24

    The wage gap has stopped growing though, so I can’t agree that things have got worse, even if they could be done better.

    I don’t have evidence to the contrary, but people keep leaving for Australia at a higher rate than ever before.

    Please don’t employ the Dr Cullen “join ’em” retort, Tane 😉

  25. Tane 25

    These stats show a levelling off of the wage gap over the last decade:
    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1522

    National has put out an alternative one using after-tax wages, but that opens up a whole new can of worms.

    Agreed though, like many of Cullen’s retorts the “join em” one was poorly judged.

  26. Steve Pierson 26

    scribe. it’s not higher than ever before, therein lies the error.

  27. Scribe 27

    SP,

    Stats from today show that emigration to Oz was 29,900; the highest (recently at least) was 30,000. So you’re correct that it’s not higher than ever before.

    However, the last comparative numbers from Stats NZ say this: “The net outflow to Australia was 29,600 in 2008, compared with 22,200 in the previous year.”

    That’s quite a jump.

  28. K Douglas 28

    Monty

    “Always remember that no one is forced to work for a bad employer – they can always go and get works elsewhere if the employee does not like it.”

    What about the employee already working for that employer-can he/she just up sticks and go? What happens if that is the only employer in the town that, that employee has the skills to work for? Do you think that employers only turn bad when employment legislation changes?

    Why should employment terms and conditions be reduced when a government changes? As we have seen most of the productivity increases during the 90’s was off the back of workers. Is this fair? I don’t think so. Productivity should come from changes in work processes and technology introduced into workplaces. What is the Nats and even Labours policy on Productivity?

  29. Steve Pierson 29

    I refer you to my new post. As you can see the numbers do jump around

  30. leftie 30

    Any Party can promise to keep putting the minimum wage up, but by how much?
    It can be argued that National put it up in the 90’s, but it’s a fact they put it up a very small amount over a long time.
    Us workers are just starting to get some balance after National’s last “rebalancing” act which saw people lose penal rates and other conditions at work from 1990. What good was National’s tax cut to us then?
    Is this history repeating itself?

  31. Tane thanks for the clarification, excuse my pendantry 🙂

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Reducing road deaths a priority for Labour
      Labour’s transport policy prioritises action to cut the rapidly rising death toll on our roads, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Michael Wood, after new figures show the road toll on track to increase for the fourth consecutive year.  “We simply ...
    1 hour ago
  • Labour to build starter homes and state houses in Palmerston North
    Labour will build 149 homes – a mix of KiwiBuild starter homes for first homebuyers and state houses – on land that National has left vacant for years, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “Palmerston North is a growing, ...
    1 day ago
  • A Green deal for small business
    Behind the rhetoric of being ‘business-friendly’, the National government has prioritised the interests of big business and foreign corporations over small business. The Green Party considers that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of our economy, opportunities, and ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    2 days ago
  • Labour’s transport plan will get New Zealand moving
    Labour’s transport policy will create an integrated, 21st century transport system to move people and freight around New Zealand. As a priority we will act to immediately stop work on National’s plan to de-electrify the North Island Main Trunk Line, ...
    2 days ago
  • Farming leaders pledge to clean up New Zealand rivers
    Labour welcomes a pledge by the Farmers Leaders Group to make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for our children and grandchildren, says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker.   “The farmers’ leaders say they have come together for the first time to ...
    2 days ago
  • Labour pays tribute to Peter Dunne
    Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern has today paid tribute to United Future leader Peter Dunne, who announced he would no longer be standing in the 2017 General Election. “Today I acknowledge the significant contribution by Peter Dunne over 33 ...
    3 days ago
  • Labour is the only party with a plan to fix teacher shortage
    Only Labour has a comprehensive plan to fix the critical shortage of teachers that is already hampering our schools and is set to get worse after nine years of inaction by the National Government, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 days ago
  • Labour to invest in regional road rail
    Labour will invest in a rapid rail network connecting Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga, and double funding to help complete important regional roading projects, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.  “The ‘Golden Triangle’ of Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga contains half ...
    3 days ago
  • Rattled Nats announce slapdash roads policy
      The Government rattled by the polls, has announced a poorly thought through slapdash policy for new Roads of National Significance, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Michael Wood.  “There is a complete lack of any answers in National’s plan to build ...
    4 days ago
  • Let’s do this – Labour’s election campaign launched
    The Government I lead will be a government that listens, then acts. A Government that leads, not follows, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern at the launch of the Labour Party’s 2017 election campaign at a packed Auckland Town Hall. “I ...
    4 days ago
  • Government must apologise over rebuild debacle
    The Prime Minister owes the public of Otago and Southland an apology and then he must come up with an unredacted copy of the business case for the Dunedin hospital rebuild, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. "For too long the interests of ...
    6 days ago
  • Government caves to multi-national tax avoiders in the shadows
    News that the Government has secretly caved in to the demands of multi-national tax avoiders come as no surprise, but will disappoint Kiwi taxpayers, says Labour’s spokesman for Revenue Michael Wood.   “It has been revealed that a United States ...
    7 days ago
  • Cheaper to stay at The Langham than emergency housing motels
    Labour’s comprehensive plan to fix the housing crisis and ensure there’s enough state housing, means we won’t be paying through the nose for emergency accommodation like the current Government has to, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “National has ...
    7 days ago
  • Government must come clean on water
      News that the National Government is secretly working behind closed doors on its own water charging schemes shows their utter hypocrisy on this issue, says Labour’s water spokesperson David Parker.  “They have been carping on about Labour’s plan for ...
    7 days ago
  • Government pays twice the price for emergency housing motels – with two more on the way
    Under Labour’s plan to build at least 1000 state houses each year, New Zealand wouldn’t be paying more than double the valuations for motels to house Kiwis needing emergency housing, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “Under questioning today, ...
    1 week ago
  • HAM shows country needs Labour on housing
    The latest Housing Affordability Measure report shows affordability dramatically worsening for Auckland first home buyers, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    1 week ago
  • Canterbury kids get more support for mental health
    Children in Canterbury and Kaikoura will get dedicated mental health support to help them overcome the trauma of the earthquakes, says the Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “We’ll fund an extra eighty mental health professionals for the next three ...
    1 week ago
  • Statement on Julie Bishop’s comments
    It is highly regrettable that the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has chosen to make false claims about the New Zealand Labour Party. I have been utterly transparent about this situation. I stand by my statements this morning that I ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour stands with Pike families
    A Labour Government will stand with the families of Pike River and reaffirm its commitment to safe workplaces by ensuring there will be a Minister responsible for Pike River, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “The Pike River disaster ...
    1 week ago
  • Yes to Sallies – Labour will build more state houses
    The Salvation Army’s latest report ‘Taking Stock’ shows why New Zealand needs a Labour-led Government committed to a massive house building programme, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “When the Sallies say the country needs 2000 extra state houses a ...
    1 week ago
  • New Zealanders deserve better than scaremongering over water
    New Zealanders need to hear from National about how they will fund the clean-up of our rivers and lakes for future generations. Instead, National has broadened its scare-mongering, says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker. ...
    1 week ago
  • School Leavers’ Toolkit to equip young people for adult life
    Labour will give school leavers the practical skills and knowledge they need for adult life with a new School Leavers’ Toolkit, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “Our teachers and schools do a great job of teaching our children ...
    1 week ago
  • Pay equity to be a priority for Labour
      Labour will make sure that the country’s mental health workers are a priority when it comes to pay equity negotiations, says the Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.  “It is very important for me to right the wrong created ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s positive education plan
    Today’s announcement on learning support is more tinkering and proof that only a Labour Government will deliver the resources that schools and parents are crying out for, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.  “We have a positive vision for a ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Pike footage raises questions over government’s actions
    The Government’s seeming determination to turn a blind eye to new questions about what happened at Pike River Mine is troubling, says Labour’s West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Solution to rent rises lies in building houses and stopping speculators
    The spread of rental increases from the big cities to the surrounding regions shows why we need to get on top of the housing shortage build homes our families can afford, and lock out the speculators, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Clean rivers don’t cost $18 a cabbage
    National is falling into a bad pattern of promising the world and not saying how they will fund it, says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Time for honest answer on transport funding
    National needs to explain how they will fund the $6 billion funding gap in their 10-year Auckland transport plan, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Time for true numbers on overseas speculators
    It’s time for the Government to give accurate figures on the number of houses being bought by overseas speculators, says Labour’s Land Information spokesperson Raymond Huo. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Fair and sustainable trade: A Green Party vision for New Zealand’s trading relationships
    Trade is a cornerstone of the New Zealand economy. It provides us with the things we want and need, and enables us to pay for those with exports that generate business opportunities and jobs. However, it should be recognised that ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    2 weeks ago
  • Clean rivers for future generations
    Labour will lead a nationwide effort to restore our rivers and lakes to a clean, swimmable state, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand really can do better on health
    Labour’s commitment to affordable access to high quality healthcare will provide a better service for New Zealanders than the current Health Minister, who will not apologise for statements that he made that wrongly criticised hard-working staff in the Southern DHB’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s plan the answer to motorway chaos
    Labour’s plan to build a light rail network and improve heavy rail and bus services across Auckland is the only answer to the kind of motorway congestion Aucklanders endured this morning, says Labour Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to build rail to Auckland Airport
    A world class city needs a rail connection from the CBD to its international airport – that’s why Labour will build light rail to Auckland Airport as a priority, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.  “Let’s get Auckland moving ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Is pay equity just too hard for this Govt?
    You are hard pressed these days to find someone that openly admits their misogyny, that men should still be paid more than women. Politicians proclaim that they want to see women paid more, but do their actions back it up? ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour’s commitment to our Rainbow nation
    The Labour Party has reaffirmed its commitment to New Zealand’s rainbow community with its 2017 Rainbow policy, featuring the goal to end HIV in New Zealand by 2025. Grant Robertson says Labour continues a long and proud tradition of advocating ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour’s vision for Auckland more than reheated roads
    Labour is more ambitious for Auckland than the reheated set of transport projects proposed by National, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Waiting urology patients are the tip of the iceberg
    The 10 patients waiting for urology surgery at Dunedin Hospital are just the tip of the iceberg, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.  "Hundreds of patients are waiting for follow-up appointments, but they are not deemed serious enough to be ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Maori Landowners Misled by Maori Party
    Māori landowners are being misled by Government hui being held throughout the country promoting the troubled Māori Land Service (MLS), which underpins the Crown’s unpopular Ture Whenua reforms, says Labour’s Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago

%d bloggers like this: