Kate Wikinson, John Key’s hapless Minister of Labour, has told NZPA the public shouldn’t get to have their say on the fire at will bill because, apparently, we already had our chance with Wayne Mapp’s private member’s bill back in 2006.
This argument is complete bollocks, and she knows it. Perhaps that’s why she refused to front up to Mary Wilson on Radio NZ Checkpoint tonight.
Because while the new bill shares the same underlying premise as Mapp’s bill – that is, to give employers the power to fire staff at will – there have been some pretty significant changes signalled, including a number that have so far had little or no public discussion.
- National has said it will limit the law to firms with fewer than 20 employees. Will this include workers at owner-operated franchises of major companies like Subway, McDonalds and BP?
- Will teachers be covered by the bill? Anne Tolley and Kate Wilkinson each gave different answers when asked during the election campaign, neither have since cleared it up.
- In the 92 words National made available on this policy before the election we are told “good faith provisions will still apply”. What exactly does that mean? And how will that help someone who has been dismissed unfairly but has no right to lodge a personal grievance?
- The policy also says “rules of natural justice will apply”. How?
- Wilkinson says employers will not be able to hire and fire the same employee every 89 days. What wording will this provision take, and is there provision to stop employers from hiring and firing different employees every 89 days?
- Wilkinson says the bill will protect against human rights breaches. But so long as an employer gives “performance” as a cause for dismissal, no matter the real reason, workers won’t be able to argue the dismissal was unjust. Is Wilkinson aware of this? And can she tell us exactly how many human rights claims succeed each year in relation to employment?
- Wilkinson says workers will be able to lodge a personal grievance on the basis of sexual harrassment or discrimination. But what use is this provision if an employer can claim “performance” is the reason without having to prove it?
- Wilkinson says mediation will be available for employers and staff who experience problems. But what use is mediation when one party has been so utterly disempowered that the employer can just terminate them whatever the outcome?
And I’m sure there are others I haven’t thought of.
So, plenty of legitimate questions that deserve the proper democratic scrutiny of the select committee process and a wider public debate. There is absolutely no excuse for National to push this bill through under urgency and deny New Zealanders the right to have their say. This is politics, pure and simple.