There was this one time when the Government understood that workers coming into NZ to help rebuild Christchurch were very vulnerable to exploitation. Because a work visa is tied to a particular employer, migrant workers found that raising any issue such as getting the minimum wage, health and safety, being ripped off on accommodation and the like, meant they would be dismissed and have to leave the country despite often having incurred huge debt to get here.
The Government thought a solution would be to allow them the freedom to move easily to another employer involved in the rebuild and changed the rules to allow this. We all praised them. But the Government is worried about “employee poaching”. That is when workers move to other employers because they can earn more. Yes they have made collective bargaining inaccessible by design of the law, but there will also be active measures to ensure market pressure to lift wages are also removed by Government supported anti competitive measures.
Warned/lobbied (by those bastions of worker rights, Labour Hire agencies would you believe!) that this move to support migrants might mean ” employee poaching” – it has now backed down and reversed this decision. Actually prior to that is has even facilitated construction employers to sign a “Construction Sector Workforce Plan” with a specific acknowledgement that “poaching” will increase wages and a provision that says
Anti-poaching agreement: construction employers will investigate the scope for an anti-poaching agreement, in which signatories will refrain from directly approaching other employers’ staff with a view to poaching them, and rely instead on fair and equitable ways of attracting and retaining staff
Actually there was this other time too. After two Government run inquiries into health and safety, the overwhelming finding was that the biggest fault in our shonky system was the lack of worker participation in workplace safety. Basically workers are the only “eyes, ears and mouth” at the worksite every day and in safe jurisdictions they have rights and roles in keeping the work safe.
The Government almost introduced new law which would secure this role and these rights for workers. We all praised them. Not only would workplaces have elected safety reps but they would have real rights – like ceasing dangerous work, issuing prohibition notices, accompanying inspectors and being part of investigations. After lobbying from our most dangerous sector (agriculture), the Government will try to pass the law excluding these rights for all business with less than 20 staff – which happen to be our most dangerous – farming, forestry, construction, fishing. If workers do not have reps with approved training, it doesn’t matter what “employee participation” system the workplace has – these rights are removed.
Oh and actually… do you remember the Minister (Woodhouse) said he would legislate to remove the worst elements of zero hour contracts and deductions from workers wages for events such as drive offs in petrol stations (maybe he just meant he would get rid of John Campbell?). We all praised him.
Of course the worst element for zero hours is that in most cases they are unnecessary. They occur most often in 24/7 businesses that could easily offer permanent hours. The fix would be to make them unlawful unless there were genuine reasons on reasonable grounds to use them. We think instead he will probably legislate to make zero hours lawful but put in unstipulated penalties in such as “an allowance” for late cancelled shifts, or such like. There will be nothing for late call ins which will increase (to avoid the allowance), or insufficient security of hours and irregular shifts – which is the real issue here. On deductions – we think they are already unlawful, but these too are likely to be made legal in some circumstances allowing more of them rather than reducing them (if they do anything at all).