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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  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Government says it will now build just one really nice home
    Following publication of this article, the Ministry has requested it to be noted that this supplied image is not necessarily representative of what the final house will look like, and it “probably won’t be that nice.” As part of today’s long-anticipated reset of the Government’s flagship KiwiBuild policy, Housing Minister ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Imperialism and your cup of coffee
    Over the next week or two we will be running three synopses of parts of the opening chapter of John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st Century (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2016).  The synopsis and commentary below is written by Phil Duncan. Marx began Capital not with a sweeping historical ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Still juking the stats
    The State Services Commission and Ombudsman have released another batch of OIA statistics, covering the last six months. Request volumes are up, and the core public service is generally handling them within the legal timeframe, though this may be because they've learned to extend rather than just ignore things. And ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Hard News: Time for a New Deal: 25 years on
    In 1994, I was editing an ambitious street mag called Planet, from a fabled office at at 309 Karangahape Road. The thirteenth issue of the magazine was published in the winter of that year and its cover embodied a particularly ambitious goal: the end of cannabis prohibition.I wanted to do ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Not impressed
    KiwiBuild was one of the Ardern government's core policies. The government would end the housing crisis and make housing affordable again by building 100,000 new homes. Of course, it didn't work out like that: targets weren't met, the houses they did build were in the wrong place, and the whole ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Solar beats coal
    As the climate crisis escalates, it is now obvious that we need to radically decarbonise our economy. The good news is that its looking easy and profitable for the energy sector. Wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels, and now solar is too:The levellised cost of solar PV has fallen ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • A Step Too Far.
    A Crown Asset? For reasons relating to its own political convenience, the Crown pretends to believe that “No one owns the water.” To say otherwise would re-vivify the promises contained in the Treaty of Waitangi – most particularly those pertaining to the power of the chiefs and their proprietary rights ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Where Money Comes From
    Most people would say, no doubt, that they have a pretty good idea of what money is. They live with the reality of money every day. It is what is needed to buy the necessities of life and to maintain a decent standard of living. You get money, they would ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Banned by the Green Party leadership: Jill Abigail on women’s rights and trans rights
    The article below was an opinion piece that appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Te Awa (the NZ Green Party’s newsletter) and on the Greens website.  In keeping with their policy of hostility to women defending women’s right to female-only spaces, Green bureaucrats have since removed the opinion piece.  ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The fallacy of the proximity argument.
    Longer term readers may remember my complaining that, as a political scientist, it is burdensome to have non-political scientists wanting to engage me about politics. No layperson would think to approach an astrophysicist and lecture him/her on the finer details of quarks and black holes, but everybody with an opinion ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Where We Stood: Chris Trotter Replies To Stevan Eldred-Grigg.
    Joining The Fight: Stevan Eldred-Grigg's argument for New Zealand staying out of the Second World War fails not only on the hard-headed grounds of preserving the country’s strategic and economic interests; and not just on the soft-hearted grounds of duty and loyalty to the nation that had given New Zealand ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Universities back the climate strike
    On September 27, School Strike 4 Climate will be striking for a future to pressure the government for meaningful climate action. This time, they've asked adults to join them. And now, Lincoln University and Victoria University of Wellington have signed on:Victoria University of Wellington has joined Lincoln University in endorsing ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Another constitutional outrage
    Another day, another constitutional outrage in the UK. This time, the government is saying that if parliament passes a law to stop Brexit before being prorogued, they may just ignore it:A senior cabinet minister has suggested Boris Johnson could defy legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit if it is forced ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ending dairy in Canterbury
    Environment Canterbury has finally proposed nitrogen limits to stop dairy farmers from poisoning Christchurch's water supply. And naturally, farmers are whining about it:A proposed move by Environment Canterbury (ECan) to protect Christchurch's drinking water by setting tough – some would say, draconian – nitrate reductions in the decades ahead and ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Is National the party of climate arson?
    The Zero Carbon Bill is currently before select committee. While its targets are weak, its a generally sensible bill that promises to establish a long-term framework to guide emissions reductions. But National hasn't made up its mind on whether it will support it - and according to Andrea Vance in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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