The next attack on working Kiwis

Written By: - Date published: 10:34 am, June 11th, 2010 - 15 comments
Categories: wages, workers' rights - Tags:

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.

15 comments on “The next attack on working Kiwis”

  1. seth 1

    The reason less was spent on wages was because unemployment skyrocketed, thanks to the recession. Thats nothing to do with John Key, it has happened all over the world. Newsflash, if Labour won the last election, unemployment still would have skyrocketed.

    Extrapolating that to when he leaves office is pointless and an extremely simplistic view of what the economy will do in the next X years while Key is in power.

    I don’t see the point of this article at all. Whoop de whoop, we have high unemployment at the moment (but not relative to other economies).

    • Bright Red 1.1

      “Extrapolating that to when he leaves office is pointless and an extremely simplistic view of what the economy will do in the next X years while Key is in power.”

      seth. They’re treasury’s numbers for next year. Marty’s making a wee point.

      “The reason less was spent on wages was because unemployment skyrocketed, thanks to the recession. Thats nothing to do with John Key, it has happened all over the world. Newsflash, if Labour won the last election, unemployment still would have skyrocketed.”

      It’s not a necessary condition that wages fall in a recession. In fact, they didn’t fall during the recession, they’re falling now – after the recession is over. They’re falling because of high unemployment and anti-worker policies like fire at will and a low minimum wage.

      A government that doesn’t want wages to fall would have worked to keep unemployment down (like in Aussie) and wouldn’t have passed anti worker policies.

    • infused 1.2

      Marty G wrote it. Could you expect anything less? I really don’t think he has a clue. When talking about selling a week of annual leave

      • infused 1.2.1

        Helped if I finished that. I was going to say, quite a few people I know would love to sell their Annual leave.

        • the pinkpostman

          Only because under the Nats wages go down ,jobs become hard to find and Unions get shafted by unscrupulous employers.
          Workers should have more time off especially manual workers.
          Also under all Right -Wing governments accidents at work are more common. the cause, cut backs to safety rules , fear of job lose and once again lack of union presence. If wages were better then working people would not have (sic) to sell their badly needed holidays.
          Alright for some employers to sit on their fat arses and tell workers not to have time off,they dont go home tired,Unless they have drunk too much to drink at lunch,

      • Bright Red 1.2.2

        what’s the problem, infused?

        you work increases more than your pay does if you sell a week back.

  2. roger nome 2

    Yeah – best to leave the partisan statistical obfuscation to Farrar i reckon.

  3. roger nome 3

    That’s beleivable infused, but it’s also beleivable that many workers will take an extra week for fear of being passed over for promotion, extra hours, or re-hiring.

    IMO four weeks of holliday every year isn’t very much for a full-time worker, and we should be able to enjoy that free of the concerns listed above.

  4. Jim Nald 4

    Indeed, the Right wreckers are well on track to make things worse off for working NZers.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    Labour’s response should be to increase the holiday entitlement to 5 weeks, with 1 week being able to be sold 🙂

    • Lets just leave it to the five weeks Lanthanid .If the majority of employers paid decent wages families would be able to spend more time together,result less anger in the home , less crime, and very likely less mothers having to go solo . The wages paid to some workers are a disgrace.
      nothing to do with employers profit the worst payers for the longest hours are mainly farmers .And they have ben coining it in for years,

  6. tc 6

    No surprises here with a National gov’t……the recession gets worse for all but the top end of town and their budget wealth shuffle is months away from kicking in yet…….it would be an f’n disgrace if it wasn’t so predictable from the party with no plan except pillage assets, bash benes/workers, cut education/R&D/health etc……it’s never worked before but hey the PM made a funny so it’s all OK according to the msm……who are the real disgrace in NZ.

  7. TightyRighty 7

    I checked the figures, from an employees point of view, and I think you’re wrong marty. if you work an extra week, you get paid twice for it? so your average weekly wage goes up by $17, if you are on 40K a year. now forgive me for being dense, but say in an instance that you had more annual leave than you were able to take in a particular year? wouldn’t you like the option to sell that 4th week to your employer? I know it’s a rare occurence, but if it happened to me, i would like the option to choose for myself.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      A lot of companies have policies where accumulation of annual leave to certain levels results in 1 of 3 things:
      1. Forced to take the annual leave
      2. Leave is forfeited
      3. Leave is paid out in $

      So for some people this new law isn’t going to give them any new option that wouldn’t have happened anyway (depending on their employer).

  8. Andy 8

    and the elephant in the room is of course the completely pointless ETS, but you don’t want to talk about that, do you?

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