John Key once told us his goal for the division of wealth between working Kiwis and the owners of capital: “we would love to see wages drop” he told a businesswoman, unaware he was in the presence of the reporter.
Mission accomplished. After inflation, businesses spent 0.7% less on wages in the March 2008, a further 4.1% less this past March year, and will spend another 1.4% this coming year. Kiwi workers’ combined incomes will be $1.5 billion lower when Key leaves office than when he entered.
But the Nats aren’t done.
The next stage is to attack holidays.
Shift workers are set to get shafted. Darien Fenton has explained it succinctly:
All leave is allocated in hours instead of days, so for sick leave it’s 40 hours, not five working days per year.
So if someone who works 4 x 10 hour shifts per week takes 3 days sick leave, that’s 30 hours used up. That worker then only has 10 hours left – in other words, one day so that worker will lose 1 day of sick leave a year under this arrangement.
It gets worse if annual leave is calculated in the same way. Currently, annual leave is calculated at either the ordinary weekly wage, or the average earnings for previous 12 month period, whichever amount is greater. This is particularly important for workers who work shifts and for part-time and seasonal workers who work irregular hours.
Holidays calculated on the basis of hours will mean less than four weeks paid annual leave for many workers. Apparently, there’s going to be a whole new Holidays Act and goodness knows what other gems will be in it.
Another ‘gem’ will be introducing the ‘choice’ to sell one week’s annual leave to the boss. We know what kind of ‘choice’ this will be, the same ‘choice’ that workers get now when the new boss tells them their contract will have them on the 90 days, no rights period.
Forcing workers to sell back one week’s leave is attractive to employers. A full time worker goes from working 46 weeks a year (remember public holidays) to working 47, a 2.2% increase. But, as you know, a worker is paid for 52 weeks a year. So, an extra week’s wages will mean the boss pays 53 weeks rather than 52, a 1.9% increase. 2.2% more work-hours for 1.9% more cost, that’ll help the profit margin. For the worker, it means 2.2% more work for 1.9% more pay.
And, of course, the employer will just claw back the extra cost in the next wage round.