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Who is Kate Wilkinson taking aim at?

Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, September 8th, 2009 - 20 comments
Categories: national/act government, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

By John Ryall, SFWU National Secretary

While The Standard readers know that the air traffic controllers were the excuse that Kate Wilkinson used to signal a repeal of parts of the 2008 Employment Relations Act (Breaks and Infant Feeding) Amendment Act, they are probably not aware of who is really going to be affected by their removal.

Kate Wilkinson was on the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee when the Service and Food Workers Union presented their submission in June last year. Union member and Indian immigrant worker James Joseph told his story of what life was like working in Wellington ethnic restaurants a different side of life that no one on the select committee had ever experienced. James came to New Zealand 11 years ago but it was some time before he discovered that most workers received breaks during their working day.

In one of the restaurants he worked split shifts, working from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then from 4.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. or later. When he insisted on having a short break every three hours he was called a ‘troublemaker’ and sacked by his employer.

Despite being six months without work he raised the work break issue in his new employment. He thought he would be on safer ground here because he actually had a written employment agreement, something that had not been given him in his previous job. The Agreement even had a rest breaks clause:

‘The Employer can arrange Rest and Meal Breaks so that they do not cause disruption to clients, customers or production.’

He approached his employer about scheduling in some rest breaks and was told that it was not possible during the hours he worked because the restaurant was always too busy. After arguing with the employer about the intention of the clause James decided to schedule his own breaks and talked to his fellow workers about doing the same. The employer didn’t take long to react to this ‘insubordination’. He showed James the door.

James told the Select Committee that challenging these employers without the protection of the law was very difficult for workers such as himself.

‘Being an overseas worker is not easy when you have nowhere else to go; you don’t have a house; you don’t have a job; you don’t have anyone to talk to. We do need something. We are just killing ourselves.’

Unlike the other members of the Select Committee Kate didn’t react to James Joseph’s story but she did comment that she was concerned that if meal and rest breaks were put into law that those employers who were giving longer breaks may shorten them back to the minimum provisions in the law.

Prior to the passing of the rest breaks amendment last year the SFWU used to receive a lot of calls from workers such as James and parents of young workers who were horrified that no law existed to give their sons and daughters meal breaks. Since the law change and the publicity around it these calls have dried up.

If Kate Wilkinson has her way we will be going back to the sad old situation that existed then.

20 comments on “Who is Kate Wilkinson taking aim at? ”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    “…but she did comment that she was concerned that if meal and rest breaks were put into law that those employers who were giving longer breaks may shorten them back to the minimum provisions in the law. ”

    Jeebus crying on the floor, where do they come up with this shit?

    • Maynard J 1.1

      It is all real, PB. When the minimum wage was increased to $12.50 my salary dropped from $50K+ straight back to the minimum. My employer said that because it was legislated, that was obviously the best rate.

      I rang Kate, told her my story; she has promised to abolish the minimum wage and liberate my salary from the shackles and tyranny of Government.

  2. A good post. Lots of reasonable people never hear of these types of behaviours and,so, when John presents the case for strong voice in thew workplace, backed up by appropriate legislation, people listen (except, perhaps, Ms Wilkinson, whose hearing is selective – perhaps employers talk at a different, more accessible pitch).

    And the anti-spam word is “unpleasant” – how appropriate.

  3. Zepher 3

    It scares me that she almost won my electorate by 500 votes.

  4. lprent 4

    I seem to remember that there is a word for people who are incapable of acknowledging other peoples suffering..

    Sociopath?

  5. helena 5

    Thankyou John for the reality check. Its great to hear from people who care.
    There are a lot of people on minimum wages whose bosses just want to flog them to death. The intention is to make more profit for themselves at the expense of their poor workers. Shame on Kate Wilkinson for not recognising that some workers dont have a lot of say or power over what happens to them and the only way they will be treated any better is if there is legislation to help them have some semblance of fair treatment.

  6. Tammy Gordon 6

    Good post John, thank you. There’s a parallel universe here in NZ and most of us ain’t in it and certainly none of them down at the Beehive. Do you remember when a National MP back in the 90s lived for a week on the DPB? Who was that? She declared, if I remember it correctly, that it was no problem for her and all those solo mums should toughen up and budget better. Naturally she didn’t have to pay bills that week and her pantry was suitably stocked. Perhaps Kate could pass a rather tougher test and work for a week as a pot scrubber in a busy restaurant.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      Yeah I remember that Tammy, can’t recall who it was and Mr Gazoogle tells me that:

      Your search – “national party” “living on the benefit” – did not match any documents.

      from memory she was supposed to go a month, but had to quit because she needed to take a kid to the doctor, which wasnae in the plan.

      • felix 6.1.1

        If I recall correctly it was Katherine O’Regan.

        And yep, she couldn’t last one week, even with a fully stocked kitchen and all her bills paid up.

      • felix 6.1.2

        If I recall correctly it was Katherine O’Regan.

        And yep, she couldn’t even last one week – even with a fully stocked kitchen and all her bills paid up.

      • felix 6.1.3

        Katherine O’Regan.

      • Tammy Gordon 6.1.4

        well she should have thought about that before she had those kids!

  7. Len Richards 7

    Some cleaners at a major Auckland hospital told me this week that they have been missing out on their 10 minute afternoon break. Their supervisors were not observing the requirements of the new law. If there was no requirement in law many workers throughout the country would not get beaks.
    Unionised workers like those at the hospital have redress through their union and their negotiated employment contract. Workers in more vulnerable situations need the law to protect their rights.

  8. SFWU = Shut the Frickin Workers Up

  9. John Ryall 9

    Thanks for the supportive comments about my post.

    The point of my story about James Joseph is that there are tens of thousands of minimum wage workers like James in the hospitality sector who will be the ones to immediately suffer from Kate Wilkinson scrapping the rest breaks legislation, not a few high-income air traffic controllers.

  10. randal 10

    who is she taking aim at? anyone she can. as Adam smith pointed out in his “Theory Of Moral Sentiments” what people desire most of all is “command over labour”. It satisfies the nasty part of peoples desires. Bashing up low paid workers is basically a subsitute for bashing up others but this lot are easier and dont put up as much resistance.

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