web analytics

The Australian Dream for Forestry Workers

Written By: - Date published: 4:42 pm, May 12th, 2013 - 12 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

There is an award for forestry workers in Australia. It has a whole range of terms and conditions including hours of work and time off, penal rates for overtime including weekend work, travel allowances and training provisions. The accident rate is half the rate of NZ. The economy is also stronger in Australia, unemployment is lower, wages are better and they have a better cricket team. It all seems rather dignified to me.

Getting any sort of rights for Forestry workers in New Zealand using the current industrial relations framework is a huge undertaking. Protected only by statutory minimums that determine minimum wage, holidays etc for all workers in NZ, forestry workers are, in my view, being employed on terms which are leading to the massive toll of death and injuries. The fragmented model of the industry (9 major forest owners and over 300 harvesting contractors who employ crew) means contractors compete over the price of labour, and with margins being squeezed by theforest owners, contractors in turn pressure forestry workers to work in conditions which are a national disgrace.

Following Pike River the Government set up the Health and Safety Taskforce. They appointed Rob Jaeger as chair. Rob is the Chair of the Board of Shell Oil in NZ. Also on the group was Paul McKay from Business NZ and Bill Rosenberg from the CTU and three others. The report is very good and all participants endorsed it. Not only does it make some very strong recommendations for the future which if implemented will improve our appalling health and safety record but it analyses what is going on currently that contributes to our terrible record in a very effective way. The report strongly records that the deregulation of the Labour market in the 1980’s and 1990’s has contributed to the problem, most particularly the absence of worker voice in health and safety in the workplace. Sadly recommendations to reregulate the labour market were probably out of scope!

The Government is deregulating the labour market further. Not only is it attacking current collective bargaining mechanisms but it is even making the right to take a tea break marginal. The changes to the Employment Relations Act were tabled two weeks ago by the Government. If they had been in place last year they would have allowed the Port of Auckland to turn its stevedoring workforce into day labourers hired by external contractors, as it had planned. The proposed changes to the Act are, as a package, the things Business NZ wet dreams are made of, and when you think of their impact on those working people in industries like forestry where workers and families actually need safer terms and conditions, they are a major step backwards.

The CTU is promoting exactly the opposite to these changes. We want law that supports the creation of industry standard documents which would see forestry workers have industry wide minimum terms and conditions, protecting them from death by over work and creating a level playing field that stops forest owners driving conditions down. We are promoting a method of extension of bargaining which the IMF recently recognised as really the only effective system of providing access to real collective bargaining for working people. I will write a more detailed description of the system soon.

It is interesting at the moment that some large NZ employers (all unionised I add), are breaking away from the position advocated by Business NZ – Progressives Supermarkets and Restaurant Brands rejecting youth rates, Warehouse moving towards the Living Wage along with others. We know in the Port dispute there were employers that didn’t support the way the Port was being run and saw what was happening to the workers there as another symptom of that poor management. They spoke up and created quite a stir. I have been arguing for some time that we need a modern voice for business in NZ and maybe we are seeing the beginnings of it. Forest Companies have the chance to break loose from the group and work with us as well to act now to improve the working conditions of these workers and we have certainly put that offer out there. The first to do it will get the benefits of that and the last the rancour. Those that have accidents and deaths in the meantime will be subject to massive scrutiny for doing nothing.

We are building our campaign against these work rights attacks and they are connected to the work we are doing on health and safety and the living wage. New Zealand has slipped back massively in the area of workers rights, leaving thousands of workers outside the framework of collective bargaining current available in the Act and everyone knows the consequences of that are low wages and poor conditions for thousands of those in our communities and families. We have now also been warned that the chances of coming home safety from work is also reduced by this failure.

We are offering the chance to people to directly get the information on events and activities of our campaign by signing up through our website on http://union.org.nz/whycutourpay

12 comments on “The Australian Dream for Forestry Workers ”

  1. One Anonymous Knucklehead 1

    Love your work.

  2. john ryall 2

    Good points Helen.

    Just today my niece, who works hard for a small food retail business, said that her employer told her that the Government was doing away with tea breaks. He said that despite this he would still “allow” her to take one 10 minute break in the morning and one in the afternoon but if she was seen to be “slacking off” he would get rid of them as they were “only a privilege”.

    The narrative continues with this Government. You are lucky to have a job and if you have a good employer and work very hard the employer will give you a wage higher than the minimum wage and other benefits (such as tea breaks).

    The idea of inalienable worker rights, the right to have a say over your work and to negotiate your wages and working conditions has all but disappeared and with the latest proposed employment law changes the Government is intent on putting the nail in the coffin.

    • GregJ 2.1

      Aye – while there are many small business owners who work alongside their employees and treat them fairly and as colleagues in a shared enterprise sadly there are just as many who will treat their staff like disposable dinnerware – cheap & replaceable. Often the “big” employer, faced by public censure, will realise the need to treat staff and conditions in a fair and equitable manner while small & medium businesses can slide under the radar. Hard and mean times indeed!

      Good work Helen – this campaign while being absolutely necessary for Forestry employees also highlights the sustained pressure ‘labour” and worker rights is under from this Government and its appalling industrial relations policies.

  3. AsleepWhileWalking 3

    GRRRRR

  4. asd 4

    Another great read Helen. Keep up the good fight!

  5. geoff 5

    Helen, it would be nice to hear from you about award systems in general, how they work, why we need them and how they could be introduced into NZ. You know, just when you’ve a spare moment 😛

  6. Yes 6

    The mining industry in Australia have terrible working hours. 3 weeks on 1 week off. Isolated locations and very unfriendly family conditions.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1

      That’s true. The Australian Parliament has been hearing submissions into FIFO work.

      Of course, if it was NZ, the government would pass a law requiring the workers to pay their own air-fares.

  7. Paul 7

    Capitalism does not care about its workers.

  8. Phil Darkins 8

    “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mĂ©rite (Every country has the government it deserves)” – Joseph de Maistre 1851
    Almost forty years ago, I delivered a speech on behalf of the Wainuiomata College student council; to teachers, pupils and parents. It was entitled ‘Apathy’. It was not well received. The fellow pupils were miffed, teachers insulted, parents ropeable and mother deeply embarrassed: “You’re just like your father!”. Just a few weeks back, all 650+ of my Facebook friends were asked to ‘like’ a shared post on forestry deaths if they cared about New Zealanders dying at work. Three responses appeared. I’m starting to think that the very existence of this government’s policies is perhaps all the fault of my FB friends, teachers, former fellow students and our families. And that confuses me; because my friends are supposedly just like me [whatever that is], high school teachers predominantly ‘trendy lefties’, former fellow students self-annointed Wainui roughneck anarchists, and their families, your ‘average blue-collar Kiwi battler’. How does that work? Methinks time to redeliver that speech of 1976. Moral for the nation? It is indeed possible to dig yourself a very deep hole without lifting a finger. Irony? I’ll be their common enemy.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago