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Will the real National policy please stand up?

Written By: - Date published: 3:25 pm, July 28th, 2008 - 18 comments
Categories: election 2008, national, workers' rights - Tags:

A reader noticed a difference between National’s workplace policy as quoted by us and as quoted elsewhere.

We and some others have: “Continue to allow union access to workplaces with the employer’s consent.” taken from the PDF of the workplace policy.

While others have: “Continue to allow union access to workplaces with an employer’s consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld.” taken from the press release of the policy

Important difference. Under current law, union access can only be reasonably withheld if it would “jeopardise national security or the investigation of offences”. If the second quote is the correct statement of National policy, that will remain the law. However, if the first quote is correct, the boss will be able to deny union access as they choose. That would obviously be a great union-breaking tool and bosses would be tempted to use it because a weak union or de-unionised workforce does not have the bargaining power to win good pay rises.

Our reader wrote to both Kate Wilkinson (the would-be Minister of Labour who has made no public comment on the detail of her party’s labour policy) and John Key, asking for clarification. That was last Thursday and no reply or even acknowledgment of receipt has been received. What a disgraceful way to treat concerned citizens (I should add our reader states he is a business owner, so his interests may be divergent to mine but he is appalled by the Nats’ failure to clarify this important discrepancy).

What this highlights is the ridiculous vagueness of the ‘policy’ releases National is making. We can’t even be sure whether union access will be dramatically curtailed, putting the ball entirely in the bosses’ court or will continue as is because two bullet-point statements disagree with each other and there’s no detailed material to clear up the issue. It’s beyond a joke when you can’t even rely on offical statements of National’s policy to be accurate.

18 comments on “Will the real National policy please stand up? ”

  1. rave 1

    What about allowing employers to set up their own agreements without unions?

  2. rave. we explained what that means in the post at the time. It means the boss creates a collective (with lower pay and codnitiosn than the union would demand, of course) and refuses to deal with the union. It happened under the ECA in the 1990s.

  3. randal 3

    rave what about workers setting up their own unions and negotiating with the employer…no sense in having asnake in the grass if you dont need one

  4. Scribe 4

    Well, and maybe I’m making an incorrect assumption, I would have thought the press release would be accurate because the PDF is a summary of the policy that National seemingly tried to squeeze conveniently onto one A4 sheet, meaning some details had to be omitted.

    Our reader wrote to both Kate Wilkinson (the would-be Minister of Labour who has made no public comment on the detail of her party’s labour policy) and John Key, asking for clarification. That was last Thursday and no reply or even acknowledgment of receipt has been received. What a disgraceful way to treat concerned citizens

    I agree. He should have told him to move to Australia… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10487279

    Or asked him if he is a member of the Exclusive Brethren… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=177&objectid=10478288

  5. Scribe. There’s plenty of room on the A4 for those five words. We are elft in a situation where we just don’t know which National statement of policy to believe. It’s a disgrace.

  6. Scribe 6


    So if the press release is the correct version, do you plan to applaud National for maintaining a policy that you feared would disappear under a Tory government?

    And trust me, this isn’t a “disgrace”, no matter how much you try to suggest it is.

  7. Dan 7

    Last week, T Rex did his Tui ad with “John’s not slippery, he’s just sensitive…. yeah right.”
    This week it might be”John Key’s Unauthorised Biography….yeah right.” Why the pretence of reluctance, of subterfuge to get to the heart of this misunderstood man? It is so blatantly untrue that the biography is unauthorised: Key, the National Party, all on the right have all lined up to give photos, interviews, opinions. The right sees it as essential that New Zealanders get to know the man they see as their messiah, so why not simply John Key’s Biography.
    Will the real National policy standup? Unlikely, when even the leader has to put out an unauthorised biography so that any mistakes of fact or well designed spin can be blamed upon the enthusiastic but unauthorised authors.
    Holyoake would turn in his grave.

  8. roger nome 8


    “So if the press release is the correct version, do you plan to applaud National for maintaining a policy that you feared would disappear under a Tory government?”

    That would be premeture, seeing as we don’t know what “reasonable” means – and National tend to be very crafty legislators.

  9. Matthew Pilott 9

    Scribe, while those responses weren’t ideal, it’s sad that you have to mention two unorthodox Labour responses to questions, implying that Wilkinson’s lack of a response is ok.

    I though Carter’s one was a bit of a laugh when I read it, guess there’s more than one way tomake a point about secret money! However the EB line was overused.

    And Cullen’s – well – you can’t say that he’s ‘on message’ and being stage managed to an embarrassing degree as Key is can you…

    Do you think it’s ok to have two versions of a policy out, and refuse to confirm which is correct? It’s not a minor difference as Steve pointed out.

    In Wilkinson’s defence, she’s probably aking Key what she can or can not say, after learning her lesson last time.

  10. Scribe 10


    Do you think it’s ok to have two versions of a policy out…

    It’s not great to have two versions out there, and I don’t expect Steve or others to give National the benefit of the doubt, but I personally find it hard to believe that the PDF version is the correct one and they forgot to delete the phrase “which cannot be unreasonably withheld” from the press release.

    and refuse to confirm which is correct?

    I suspect I will be accused of using semantics here, but I haven’t seen anything to say that National has “refused” to confirm which is correct. That would require them saying that they’re not going to say.

    At some stage, when the full policy is released (something Steve has said will never happen), we will know for sure, if not before then.

    captcha: hard-hitting empty — hee hee

  11. Matthew Pilott 11

    True, Scribe, no such refusal has been received, from what I read on this thread. I think this is symptomatic of a deeper malaise though, and illustrates the problem of leaving everything up to just two MPs. Dysfunctional to say the least.

    I got ‘arrval labourites’! Indeed…

  12. johndoe 12

    While it’s true that even paranoids have enemies, you guys are really reaching for villany here.

  13. infused 13

    As usual.

  14. Julie 14

    I think National have been very careful with how they have worded their policy, to avoid frightening the bigger unions. For many in well unionised workplaces, particularly in the public sector, the Nat policy as it stands may not mean much change, which means they avoid scaring the teachers, the nurses, the doctors, and other professionals who are unionised and not Labour-cradle-to-grave voters through and through.

    I would have thought the benefit of having such a skeletal policy was that there was no equivocation, no fine print that might indicate a different intention from the bits highlighted in sound bites. And yet they’ve managed it!

    By the by I emailed to John Key with a query and it took I think six weeks to get any response, and when I did it was very light on detail (hmmmm, seems to be a pattern here).

  15. rave 15

    Julie, maybe access is not that important for already unionised sites, but non-union collectives certainly are. In Health, Education etc this would undermine the unions ability to fight spending cuts, bulk funding etc.

  16. Julie 16

    rave, I agree with you entirely, sorry if I gave any other impression. I’ve seen first hand the destruction that two unions scrapping over a site can cause, and I imagine it would be far far worse if it was between a genuine workers’ union and a yellow boss’s one. We’d all be so wound up in fighting to survive that other important organising work wouldn’t get a look in, and that would be bad for pay and conditions for sure, not to mention enforcement of rights.

    There may be some in the bigger public sector unions though who will be looking at National’s policy and thinking “well it could be a lot worse and it looks like they are going to get in anyway, so we might as well not burn our bridges.” And then they pull back in the election campaign… I really hope that doesn’t happen, but for those unions who feel comfortable about their high density, and the fact that their membership grew in the 1990s, it might.

    Here’s hoping I’m just being a bit too glass half empty tonight.

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