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Previewing National’s employment policy

Written By: - Date published: 2:33 pm, July 23rd, 2008 - 33 comments
Categories: national, workers' rights - Tags:

Word around the traps is that National is going to be releasing its industrial relations policy this afternoon.

My prediction is the policy will be sold as relatively moderate, but in reality will differ only slightly from their rather extreme 2005 plan. We can be sure that every single change will have the effect of rolling back the gains made by workers over the last eight and half years. None will improve workers’ rights or lift wages. There will be no mention of how National plans to close the now forgotten wage gap with Australia.

Here’s what I’m picking:

– A review of personal grievance rights, including the introduction of a 90 day no rights period for new workers in businesses with 20 or fewer staff.

– Removal of the ‘union monopoly’ on collective bargaining.

– Restrictions on union access to the workplace, making it harder for workers to organise or to see their union representatives. [Hat tip: Ben Thomas]

– Make the fourth week’s annual leave saleable by ‘mutual agreement’.

– Vague promises about reducing ‘compliance costs’, possibly including the removal of elected health and safety reps.

The rest of National’s planned reforms (rolling back the 2004 amendments to the ERA, paid parental leave, time and half on public holidays etc) will be shelved for the second round of reform after they gain power, while other planned reforms such as Kiwisaver will likely be released separately and dressed up as small business or superannuation policies.

We said earlier in the year that the one policy National can’t move on is employment law. Small target politics might well be the name of the game, but this is one dead rat National and its supporters won’t stomach.

UPDATE: Well, it’s past 5 o’clock and there’s no policy yet so I guess that tip-off was wrong. Maybe tomorrow?

UPDATE 2: Looks like I was broadly correct. Yay, I guess…?

33 comments on “Previewing National’s employment policy ”

  1. IrishBill 1

    Hey Tane, I’ve heard the same thing. I reckon the policy will be four bullet points and two sentences which will talk about “flexibility”, “freedom” and possibly include the phrase “National’s vision is to open up greater choice for employers and employees”.

    Is there a spin bingo running on this?

  2. rjs131 2

    [Tane: A pity you had to smear us. An otherwise constructive comment.]

  3. mike 3

    I agree rjs, as the ecomomy continues to sour the more flexible (unconstrained by union bully-boys) workers will be in a better position.

  4. Tane 4

    Irish: I think you’ve just started it.

    Mike: How will people with minimum employment protections and the means to enforce them suffer more in a recession than those at the whim of their employers?

  5. Matthew Pilott 5

    Union bully-boys“? You really have a childish conceptual description of unions don’t you. I’m sure you’ll now regale me of tales from the general strike, or invent some stories about your fireman/ex-union/ex-Labour voter mate or something similar, but when it comes down to it: you don’t have a clue.

    I wonder how many people in vulnerable jobs will be glad for their individual negotiating position if things start to go bad for them. I also wonder why people join unions when things go bad. Wait a minute, no I don’t, because it’s patently obvious.

  6. mike 6

    “How will people with minimum employment protections and the means to enforce them suffer more in a recession than those at the whim of their employers?”

    Because as things get tighter and work mix changes the employer can negotiate directly with an individually employed person and they retain their job.
    It is not worth the trouble trying to negotiate with a unionised person so they would be made redundant.

  7. mike 7

    “You really have a childish conceptual description of unions don’t you.”

    No – just a first hand working relationship

  8. randal 8

    well mike if you pay your workers what they are worth and treat them with dignity then you will have a harmonious relationship.

  9. Tane 9

    Mike, union members can also negotiate over and above the conditions laid out in the collective. Collective agreements provide a floor, not a ceiling.

    I guess if you choose to discriminate (which is illegal) then that’s your choice as a manager, but it doesn’t reflect the general situation in New Zealand workplaces.

    My suspicion is that as a middle manager (I take it that’s your position) you resent the fact that those above you can tell you what to do but you can’t dictate to the workers in the same way because they’ve got a union.

    So you come on here and act the big man to try and hide the impotence you experience in your real life. You’d never consider turning the gun on those above you in the pecking order.

  10. Because as things get tighter and work mix changes the employer can negotiate directly with an individually employed person and they retain their job.
    It is not worth the trouble trying to negotiate with a unionised person so they would be made redundant.

    So when things get tighter you sack the workers who don’t take a pay cut? You’re a real nice guy Mike. Now get back to work and stop stealing time from your boss (or you may be first on the block…)

  11. mike 11

    “So you come on here and act the big man”

    Not at all – its just the harsh reality of the manufacturing sector at present that flexibilty is essential.

    Thankfully we have not had to lay anyone off as yet.

  12. monkey-boy 12

    This from the World Socialist Website.

    “Lopa Muliaga works in the kitchen at the Centra and like many hotel employees earns just $12 an hour. His wife recently died after she could not use an oxygen machine because electricity to the family’s home was cut off after they fell behind in payment to the power company. Muliaga joined a picket outside the hotel on May 29, the day his wife died. While holding down wages, the hotel is spending $10 million on refurbishments.”

    This from Roger Nome’s Progressive Politics Blog:
    “New Zealand already has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world (see page 59 of the social report), and National proposes to make this situation worse by eroding the wages and working conditions of the poor even more (without any enforceable employment rights, unpaid/underpaid work and general denial of statutory employment would become common place amongst employers wanting to save on “labour costs”) .

    But what else did we expect from the National Party?”

    So, after nine years of a Labour Government in power, we have one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world, and people are dying because they can’t pay their power bills, even as they are engaged in industrial actions because their minimum wages are so low.
    But somehow, poverty, inequality, shit minimum wages, and a fallen OECD rating, are tactfully ignored while we siscuss ‘how much worse’ it will be under National.
    I mean with friends like that, who needs enemies?

  13. rjs131 13

    Apologies for the smear – i shall be constructive as i think it is a fair question

    Why shoudl unions have a monopoly on collective bargaining? I think that it discourages freedom of association, as surely workers shoudl be able to engage an ‘agent’ soley for the purposes of negotiating a better employment contract, and then run the risk of not using (and then also not paying for) other aspect of union memberships.

  14. Tane 14

    MB – we’ve not reached a workers’ paradise. The answer is to build strong and effective unions and push the political spectrum steadily leftwards.

    I’m under no illusions that Labour or even the Greens have all the answers to our problems or the will to carry out the changes I’d like to see, but things are, slowly, getting better for workers. At their worst they’re not going backwards.

    Under National things will go backwards. Rights will be stripped and wages will fall. Please, Lee, stop it. You can’t square your pretense of supporting workers with your backing for National.

  15. rjs – unions have a monopoly but any group of 15 people can become an incorporated society and then an union. One of the things about the ERA that really p*ssed me off was the fact that a boss could start a union for their own workers. And did so.

  16. Billy 16

    Actually, Mike, I am sorry to have to tell you that you couldn’t chhose to make the unionised employees redundant. You have to have a logical basis for determining who you make redundant. For people with like jobs this usually means last on first off.

  17. monkey-boy 17

    “Under National things will go backwards. Rights will be stripped and wages will fall. Please, Lee, stop it. You can’t square your pretense of supporting workers with your backing for National.”

    No Tane, I think you are confusing me with someone else. I am under no illusions that the ‘freedom of choice’ line that National are going to spin will be a backward step for workers’ rights as you put it. But I think it is a bit rich to have the high-sounding pontification coming from some others. And speaking of pontification, Tane, as you have rather rudely decided to be an ickle bit personal in your retort, does it follow that I am to take it that you are happy to square your pretense of supporting workers with your backing for Labour?
    Do you get my drift?

  18. IrishBill 18

    Monkey-boy, I agree with you that labour hasn’t done enough for workers. That’s why I have previously endorsed the Greens as having the best employment policy on offer.

  19. roger nome 19

    This will be very interesting. I’ve recently spent quite a bit of time on a couple of posts at my blog, which go into the implications of National’s proposed “Probationary Employment Bill”, if anyone’s interested.

  20. roger nome 20

    Looks like those posts got through eventually. So, sorry ’bout that. Could someone with rights delete the extraneous posts please?

  21. Quoth the Raven 21

    Money-boy did you read the link that nome provided you with there and nome 18th is not one of the highest.

    “Most of the observed increase in income inequality was due to a larger overall rise in incomes for those in the top 20 percent of incomes than for those in the bottom 20 percent of incomes.”

    New Zealand has a gini of 33.5 in 2004 (not very recent) that’s is a big improvement on 36.3 in 1997. I wonder how that came about. The US had a gini of 40.8 in 2007. Again the countries with the lowest gini are the scandinavian countries, don’t you think we should be emulating them as Helen has stated she wants to rather than emulating the U.S as National clearly wants to.

  22. Blar 22

    Seems like you’re real close to the game Tane.

  23. Tane 23

    Not nearly as close as you though, eh Blar?

  24. monkey boy 24

    Irish Bill looked at the link provided . At last! a chink of light. I shall read it fully later.
    Tane – will you be getting a posher car when Williams is forced to resign?
    Raven – mine was a direct quote from eger moron himself, if he hasn’t done his research you should take it up with him.
    what about the meatworkers?

  25. Blar 25

    Not nearly as close as you though, eh Blar?

    What’s the implication of that Tane?

  26. Phil 26

    “Tane – will you be getting a posher car when Williams is forced to resign?”

    I thought Tane already had one of the Beemers…

  27. Tane 27

    This is rather odd, a conversation about the kind of car I drive. Oh well, as you were…

    Oh and Blar, just ribbing you mate. Don’t take it so hard.

  28. Blar 28

    By the way, the policy was launched this morning. The idea of a Wednesday policy launch is dumb.

  29. Vanilla Eis 29

    Err, it’s Thursday, but point taken.

    I imagine they timed it so there isn’t a whole lot of time for it to be attacked in the House this afternoon. No, that’ll have to wait until next week by which time the Herald and Dom will have praised the Nats policy for it’s forethought and ingenuity or somesuch, and Labour will look like sore losers in the house.

  30. Tane 30

    Just had a look at the policy. Looks like I guessed it about right. I’m just annoyed I left ‘relevant daily pay’ out of my predictions.

    Key – what a fucking reactionary. This is worse than what Don Brash proposed.

  31. Vanilla Eis 31

    Blar: Sorry, just saw what you were talking about re: Wednesday policy launch.

    Same applies. I’m surprised they didn’t give the media copies early and then announce it in-house today. That way they can have copy printed and on shelves tomorrow morning without much room for detailed reply from the Government.

  32. Blar 32

    “This is worse than what Don Brash proposed”

    Tane: Bring Back Brash.

  33. Tane 33

    I don’t think it’s worth the bother Blar. Like John Key said, the only real difference between the two is one of tone. Though John’s the better salesman.

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