web analytics

Woodhouse: tough on bad employers?

Written By: - Date published: 3:30 pm, March 26th, 2015 - 22 comments
Categories: employment, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

It should be heartening to see a National Minister of Labour (sorry, “Workplace Relations and Safety”) handing out to “bad” employers some of the no-nonsense tough-talk the right usually reserves for pregnant teenagers and people who don’t like being illegally spied on:

Employers who exploit their workers or breach employment standards are in line for a raft of harsher penalties.

New measures set to be introduced by the Government, include naming and shaming offending business owners, a massive increase in the value of fines the Employment Court can hand out, and the possibility of being banned from employing staff.

Thing is, it’s very easy to promise you’re going to crack down on employers who breach minimum standards … when you’re reducing said standards to make it easier for bad employers to get away with bad behaviour.

This is a government which has empowered employers to dismiss workers in the first 90 days for any reason whatsoever, walk away from collective bargaining, refuse to provide full information to workers who are dismissed or made redundant, hire new workers on worse terms and conditions than the collective, and even allowed employers to take their share of KiwiSaver contributions out of your pay.

They’ve re-introduced youth rates so 17- and even 19-year-olds can be paid less for doing the same work. They’ve removed protections for vulnerable workers like cleaners so their mates at CrestClean can make more money. They’ve allowed millionaires like Peter Jackson to classify permanent employees as “contractors” and deny them basic protections.

Talking tough now about “stronger sanctions” and “sending a message” can only be seen as a PR exercise. Which is a pity, because if National actually cared about cracking down on the bullies of New Zealand workplaces, I’m sure workers would be happy to provide a list of candidates.

By the time we get around to 2017 – unless Winston (a) wins in Northland and (b) doesn’t sell out for some sweet office-baubles again – the “minimum employment standards” in New Zealand could be so flimsy that Woodhouse could make breaching them punishable by public flogging and it wouldn’t mean much. The bad employers will take full advantage, and the good employers – who believe in radical notions like “my workers should be able to have a lunch break” and “my workers need to be able to afford food and rent” – will be undercut and struggle to stay in business.

Which makes Woodhouse’s stormy rhetoric all the more ironic:

“Those who breach minimum employment standards have an unfair advantage over law-abiding employers and it is unfair on employees who work hard to support their families”

You know what else is unfair, Minister? Removing basic workers’ rights, undermining workers’ collective bargaining, and redefining “law-abiding employers” so it covers the exploitative companies who – probably – support your election campaigns.

22 comments on “Woodhouse: tough on bad employers? ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Thing is, it’s very easy to promise you’re going to crack down on employers who breach minimum standards … when you’re reducing said standards to make it easier for bad employers to get away with bad behaviour.

    Yep, that was the contradiction that was bugging me when I read about this law.

    I’m all for coming down hard on bad employers but National have been putting in place policies that encourage being a bad employer and, in fact, making being a bad employer legal anyway.

  2. Murray Rawshark 2

    I see this as just another part of their anti-union drive. “Look guys, you don’t need a union because Woody Woodchuck would chuck wood. Oops, I mean look after your interests and come down hard on employers who breach our non-existent legal standards.”

  3. BassGuy 3

    A couple of days ago, someone quoted Woodhouse as saying that people don’t have to accept losing their mealbreaks as part of their contract, I think he said ‘Just say no,’ and then went on to say that it wasn’t that hard and he didn’t understand why people have made such a big thing about it.

    Years ago, and I imagine it’s still the same now, WINZ required you to accept a job if you were offered one, and if you didn’t take it you were immediately dumped onto a stand-down. You were free to negotiate, but you couldn’t turn down a job because the conditions didn’t suit you. If this is still the case, you can’t just say no.

    But, to get this back directly on topic, there needs to be some way to “encourage” businesses to be honest. Why I say this is because if someone dobs their employer in to the MBIE and then starts looking for another job this can happen:

    “I can confirm that BassGuy worked here for that period.”

    “I see, what good things can you say about him?”

    “I can only confirm that BassGuy worked here for that period.”

    This works because (I’m told) an employer is not allowed to say something negative about an employee in a reference, and since you’re not saying anything positive about them the unspoken suggestion is meant to be that an employee is a poor one.

    Revenge.

    • The lost sheep 3.1

      “This works because (I’m told) an employer is not allowed to say something negative about an employee in a reference,”

      Don’t know who told you that Bassguy, but don’t take any more advice from them. They are talking complete and utter nonsense.

      • BassGuy 3.1.1

        Actually, it was my employer who told me that. They’re wrong on so many things, why not another?

        • The lost sheep 3.1.1.1

          Yup. God knows that most businesses only keep running because of the noble efforts of the workers to compensate for the stupidity of the owner. sarc.

          But the employer that told you that was full of shit Bassguy. Fact is, as long as you observe someones privacy, and don’t tell untruths about them, you are perfectly free to give another employer an honest opinion about a prospective employees worth.

          And of course you do, and why would it be otherwise. Fact also is that there are some bad employees out there (just like there are bad employers. FFS, you’d think we are all human!), and if you have experienced them as such, you don’t want another employer to go through the same problems they caused you.

          An employer will normally only be willing to provide a detailed personal reference if they have no hesitation at all about recommending someone to other employers.
          If they have reservations, from very minor strengths and weakness type things through to major issues, they will provide the ‘worked here for x’ statement, and give contact details so that they can discuss these matters in person.

          • BassGuy 3.1.1.1.1

            I did a bit of research after your initial post, and came back to say what you’ve said. I’ve not much else to add, you’ve pretty much said it all, particularly the “we’re only human” part.

            • The lost sheep 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Probably should have pointed out that in my lifetime experience of being both and employee and an employer, I would say that 17 out of 20 people in both categories are ‘good’, and work honestly in good faith to try and get the best outcome for everyone involved in the enterprise.
              2 out of 20 are o.k.
              1 out of 20 have a negative impact on anyone working with or for them.

              The other thing that might surprise some of you is that for most employers in my experience, by far and away the worst employee is the one that creates problems for other employees.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                The question is, why do you vote for the party that represents three out of twenty?

                • The lost sheep

                  because there is such a piss poor range of options available to me as a voter.

                  Why don’t you start a political party OAB? Formed in your image It would be perfect and everyone would vote for it?

                  Post your manifesto, and i will confirm whether or not you have convinced me.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Such a terrible range of options that forces you to vote for the worst possible option. Cry me a river, crocodile boy.

  4. Sacha 4

    “there needs to be some way to ‘encourage’ businesses to be honest.”

    Good luck with that. Where are the incentives? Where is the leadership?

  5. gsays 5

    i posted the majority of this comment on open mike in response to a comment by mcflock concerning another forrestry death.
    it seems to fit here too.

    hi mcflock, i read in the paper that a 31 yr old tau henare (no relation to the mp) was massively injured in 2012 when a log rolled on him.
    the company (harvest pro, a subsidiary of kiwi forrestry international) was prosecuted by mbie and ordered to pay $40,000 reparation to mr henare in may 2014.
    the company appealed the decision and lost in oct 2014.
    now the wriggly bastards are claiming the company is in financial trouble.

    two things: when the state awards reparation, howabout the state pays the reparation then claims the money from the company.
    second, put one of these executives in jail.
    corporate manslaughter.
    5 years.
    then we may see more than just lip service being paid to worker safety.

    what are the chances of mr woodhouse influencing the jailling of an executive following a workers death?

  6. adam 6

    “Oh judge! Your damn laws! The good people don’t need them, and the bad people don’t obey them.”

    Ammon Hennacy 1933

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      Laws aren’t for the good people but for penalising those who would do harm. they define conditions to be met and the consequences of breaking them. Unfortunately, those who would do harm always look to the minutiae and loopholes within the law. Bill English double dipping with his parliamentary housing allowance was within the rules but it certainly wasn’t ethical.

  7. Whateva next? 7

    It’s inevitable, government set the values, the veneer of statesmen has worn off, and it’s a free for all, getting as much as they can, while they can.
    No amount of legislation and lies can stop the greedy who have power.

  8. ghostwhowalksnz 8

    Its a bit like the ‘crushing’ of boy racers cars.

    Remember that ?( remember her ??)

    Its only had one or two actual crushings.

    But the milking of the publicity-

    AS well the police are an existing enforcement agency, whats the bet the number of people able to enforce these provisions will be miniscule. You can see they are seeing a cheap way out here. naming and shaming ?

  9. Sable 9

    Its called the Employment Relations Act but what we really have here is the Employment Contracts Act all over again. National are really a bunch of brainless Luddites who live in the past.

  10. The Real Matthew 10

    It means the government will get tough on bad employers

    Can we save the Conspiracy Theories for The Daily Bog?

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 hours ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 hours ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    14 hours ago
  • 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
    4 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
    4 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
    4 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
    4 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
    5 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
    5 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
    6 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
    1 week 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
    1 week 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
    1 week 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
    2 weeks 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
    3 weeks ago