The biggest protests during this term of Parliament were against National’s 90 Day Bill when it came up as a private members’ bill. In protests all over the country, over ten thousand workers turned out to oppose having their rights stripped.
The Bill was defeated but National has not given up. National has signalled that the 90 Day No Rights policy will form the centre-piece of its work rights policy, which is due out this week or next. The Herald editorial welcomed the policy and suggests it may be just the start of anti-worker policy from National: “National’s plans for 90 days’ probationary employment are also a taste of a larger likely project… The change would be less significant than what it may signal for employment law generally. Employers have been loaded with so many extra costs, restrictions and obligations”. The costs, restrictions and obligations The Herald is talking about are four weeks annual leave, maternity leave, higher minimum wage, flexible work hours, and Kiwisaver. Will we see policies against these work rights from National?
Yes and no. National’s 2005 policy of ‘allowing’ workers to sell their fourth week of annual leave will be back (don’t kid yourselves, many workers will be forced to give up their fourth week) as will limiting union access to worksites so workers’ can’t organise to fight for wage rises and better conditions and privatising the ACC scheme but don’t expect much more. National can only go public with so much of its anti-worker policy before the election – enough to signal to allies like The Herald and Business NZ that National will keep workers in line but not enough to alert workers to the threat and lose their votes.
Rest assured, there will be plenty more anti-worker policy if they win power. Little pinprick policies that undermine rights and wages. After all, Key “would love to see wages drop” and that’s as simple as not raising the minimum wage and letting inflation do the rest, like they did last time.