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No good faith from Nats

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 pm, September 13th, 2009 - 25 comments
Categories: labour, national/act government, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

Finance Minister Bill English has told doctors, teachers, and other public servants that they will not be getting pay-raises when their collective contracts come up for renewal.

That is constitutionally outrageous and a big political mistake. Ministers are not allowed to direct public sector pay negotiations. It is clearly against the rules of the State Sector Act. English is effectively purporting to dictate the terms of collective agreements that are currently under or soon will be under negotiations, in breach of the good faith bargaining provisions of the Employment Relations Act.

More fundamentally problematic is that English seems to think it is up to the government, as employer of public servants, to dictate how much they are paid. Any employment contract, including that between public servants and the Crown’s organisations, is an agreement between the two parties. An employer is not a master, nor an employee a slave. We do not meekly take whatever the employer decides, according to their generosity or lack of it. Workers, usually as members of unions, bargain with their employer to define the wages and conditions of their employment (or, more commonly, piggyback on the successes unions via pass-on).

So it is and will be with public servants, despite English’s arrogant and foolish outburst. The unions will negotiate with the members’ employers for fair pay increases. If the Crown organisations try to enforce English’s zero-increase edict, if they refuse to bargain in good faith, they will face industrial action.

I can’t help but note that English is also attempting to make a liar of John Key. Last year on Breaskfast (the vid isn’t online, reference here), Key promised to increase the after-tax wages of junior doctors who were going on strike. Now, not only have the tax cuts been cancelled but English wants them not to get pay rises either. I wonder if, in 2011, the doctors and all the others will remember the promises of higher after-tax wages National made and then broke.

As more and more workers, public and private, find their employers trying to force zero pay increases – effective pay cuts – on them, there’s a political opportunity for Labour. All they have to do is stand up for the workers, whose interests the party was set up to advance.

25 comments on “No good faith from Nats ”

  1. Kiwi_busa 1

    All in all a very good reason why the government should ditch the ERA in my opinion.

    • Ari 1.1

      I’m going to hope you mean in favour of better employee protection 😛

    • not the real Ken Douglas 1.2

      All in all a very good reason the PSA to initiate for a Multi Employer Collective Agreement for those CEA’s that are expiring

  2. Following on from John Keys response to Mt Roskill firefighters last week, ‘double Dipton’s’ spiel appears to be a ‘line’ or policy, attempting to create the climate for a non legislated wage freeze. The strategy will likely pit organised workers against unorganised. Why should ‘they’ get a rise when ‘you’ and your responsible employer are not getting one.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    I wonder if, in 2011, the doctors and all the others will remember the promises of higher after-tax wages National made and then broke.

    I’m hoping that they remember that John Key said he wanted wages to drop. Bill English and John Key are certainly doing everything in their power to drive wages down.

  4. Kiwi_busa 4

    No sorry I mean ditch the ability for unions to disrupt employers going about their business. Business owners have the balls to take risks and invest in business thereby creating employment. Unions come along, with nothing to risk and do their best to wreck other peoples hard work. They a sinister cancers and need to be eradicated.

    [lprent: Ah and this applies to the post – how? The post is about the public service unions and wages. I don’t remember seeing any business owners or entrepreneurs in the public services.

    Unless you’re talking about mister Double Dipton, who I guess you could say has a certain entrepreneurial flair for creatively reorganizing his finances to rort as much out of the tax payer as possible. Was that the type of investment you were talking about? But I digress..

    Warning: Don’t attempt to thread-jack or troll here. Read the policy. Unlike you I have some very effective methods of enforcing behavioral changes in people – at least if they want to comment here. ]

  5. mike 5

    WTF are the Govt doing telling public servants they need to share the pain felt by the private sector and ease up on pay rise expectations – don’t they know a Govt’s job is to dish out condoms, restrict shower pressure and legislate what kids can eat…

    • Galeandra 5.1

      “WTF are the Govt doing telling public servants they need to share the pain felt by the private sector and ease up on pay rise expectations don’t they know a Govt’s job is to dish out condoms, restrict shower pressure and legislating what kids can eat ”

      Hardly on topic, but I can understand why you feel so enthused about such things. It would seem your school days were tyrannised by the sense of your own unwashed adolescent flab even while you blew up condoms in the quad to impress the other girls. You have my sympathy.

    • Armchair Critic 5.2

      Dishing out condoms would be done to reduce unwanted pregnancies and STIs, which would, in turn, reduce the numbers of people on the DPB, the amount of time they are on the DPB and (entirley separately) the amount of funding needed for STI clinics, treatment etc. I thought you RWDHs liked less people on the DPB and less spent on health.
      The shower heads reduced flow, not pressure. Do you not know shit about fluid mechanics? Decreasing flow increases water pressure. And decreased demand for hot water reduces water rates and power bills. Or are you one of these idiots that believes in more rates and bigger power bills?
      There is a big gap between legislating what kids can eat (no one has even suugested this) and legislating what schools can sell to their kids. Unhealthy food is just that, i.e. it’s unheathly. Cigarettes and alcohol are also unhealthy. Do you think that the legislating that stops tuck shops from selling these to kids should be repealed? There would be a buck in it, after all.
      Don’t forget, the government’s job is also to tell people what they can wear, tell them (post election) the government knows how to spend their promised tax cut better than they do, use personal information for political gain and of course lie about where they live to rort extra money, all the while preaching about financial restraint.

  6. Anthony Karinski 6

    Probably part of English’s devious plan of privatising health. Lets drive those professionals over in the private sector where they get paid more and get regular pay rises. The government and those of us with deep pockets can then buy back essential services at a premium price where the private health corporations pocket a healthy profit on top of the inflated wages they pay their employees. Works like a charm in the US right, so why not in NZ.

  7. burt 7

    I’m in two minds over this. Many in the private sector have had pay cuts, some voluntary some not so voluntary.

    If doctors and teachers weren’t already so badly paid I wouldn’t be at all put out by this. The unfortunate reality here is that National inherited a bare cupboard (full of old railway junk and unopened ACC demands) and underpaid doctors, nurses, teachers etc already jumping the ditch for better pays for years.

    • chris 7.1

      True, but he shouldn’t be opening his trap saying dumb shit like this. He can slash the budgets thus forcing the public sector bosses hand, but not just come out and say “no pay rises”. As Marty said, it’s none of his business, he just signs off the departmental budgets and that’s (regarding employment matters) all he shuold do. the bureaucracy is there for a reason remember…

  8. BLiP 8

    National Ltd made clear its aspirations for the public service early on in the election campaign. Tapping into some focus group identified irrational “feeling” that there had been a burgeoning of the public service, it promised to take an axe to the bloated bureaucrats. Since then, we need only look at a few recent examples to see how vehement National Ltd has become in bullying anyone who stands in its way.

    The NIWA public relations department made short work of Nobel Prize Winner Dr Jim Salinger and sent a chilling message to other public servants who might have been tempted to speak up. ACT’s David Garrett, the Beehive’s answer to Alf Garnet, followed up when prison officers dared to take part in the democratic process. Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias got shot down in flames when suggesting policies at variance with National Ltd’s ideas of how things should be run. Compare the media response to the Chief Justice’s ideas with how it reacted to another public servant’s speech which more accurately reflected the government’s position. Then, just last week, we had Basher Bennett’s own department reminding its staff that, in fact, they were Bennett’s private servants!

    That Blinglish has joined in as well is no surprise. Nor is National Ltd’s deliberate misunderstanding of the contractual arrangements in relation to the employment of government staff. National Ltd behaves like bullies in the private sector and is continuing that trend with the public sector.

  9. Well kindergarten teachers already secured a 4% pay increase in their bargaining earlier this year and the police just won 2%. I’m pretty sure both of those are not equal to zero.

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 10

    Does he include himself when it comes to pay restraint? I seem to recall a new ministerial housing allowance being created last week.

  11. Brickley Paiste 11

    I’m not sure that’s quite correct.

    English isn’t a party to any of the collective agreements and therefore the obligations of good faith and good faith bargaining do not bind him. Definitely a breach of the State Sector Act though. However, in any public sector bargaining, it’s basically up to the government whether they will give the money being asked for. So English is simply saying early what he was bound to say later on: no.

    Furthermore, being obtuse isn’t necessarily a breach of good faith. It remains to be seen whether “hard bargaining” is a breach of good faith. My view is that positional bargaining is still acceptable provided the party taking that line says “We’re saying no but we’re still listening”.

    The idea that Labour will stand up is laughable. The Nats are slowly starting to chip away at the ERA 2000 and its amendments. But Labour isn’t even making the point: we’ve had a year of a Nat government with NO MEANINGFUL CHANGES TO INDUSTRIAL LAWS. Maybe they like Labour’s employment policies? Labour should be making hay out of this now. What are you going to do? When? How? Don Brash’s little committee is going to do the killing.

    Read this:

    http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/70F95C52-3D92-4C78-A212-6EF3C4FF8F2D/109483/DBSCH_SCR_4453_200910EstimatesforVoteLabour_6933_1.pdf

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