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Work choices

Written By: - Date published: 4:48 pm, November 24th, 2008 - 48 comments
Categories: australian politics, workers' rights - Tags: ,

Watching this new ad from the Australian Council of Trade Unions on employment law reform was kind of depressing – while the Aussies are looking forward to getting their work rights back under a new government, ours is drafting up legislation to take them away.

Time for a change eh? Guess we should have read the fine print.

48 comments on “Work choices ”

  1. Jum 1

    3 months probation for workers.
    6 months work history to receive transition funding while finding another job.


  2. Askewed 2

    Hasn’t Gillard said she has made all the changes to Work Choices that the ALP intend to make? Hasn’t this annoyed the unions??

    Many Australians are feeling disillusioned with the Rudd ‘labor’ government and more and more it is looking like a one term wonder

  3. Tane 3

    Askewed – I understand the ACTU isn’t exactly happy with the pace or the level of progress in rolling back WorkChoices. Rudd seems, like Labour politicians worldwide, to be too concerned with business opinion to do what needs to be done.

    But the fact is, once again, workers’ rights are slowly being restored in Australia and the government is moving in the right direction. The same can’t be said over here.

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4

    Despite all the rhetoric it spouted to get elected, the Rudd Labor government is not at all popular with unions, who have:

    …have attacked Labor’s proposed new industrial relations regime on the eve of the introduction of a Bill designed to see the last vestiges of WorkChoices swept away

    Yes, the unions are running the ad you’ve embedded above. But they’ve also produced:

    …ads, which will air for three weeks, feature former federal court judge Rod Madgwick condemning the proposed laws as unfair.

    And while he’s raised the minimum wage by $21 a week he’s given public service fat cats (on $400k plus) an extra $1400 a week.

    No wonder most voters have decided Rudd is all talk.

    Sure he’s better, from a worker’s perspective, than the Coalition. But “better” means, as usual, “not as bad as” rather than “good for”.

    So sorry to burst the bubble, but the old adage is true: We vote and vote and vote, but all we keep getting is bloody lying politicians. Of every hue.

  5. Tane 5

    Rex, as I’ve said above, and in the past, Rudd’s not my man. But any comparison has to be with the alternative policies of the Coalition. That’s the nature of politics in a bourgeois democracy. It’s about which direction you’re moving in – and Australia’s going for stronger worker protections, while NZ just elected a party that wants to take us backwards.

  6. Billy 6

    Guess we should have read the fine print.

    Hardly “fine print”, Tane. National were quite open about their probationary period policy and, with the help of you and your mates, it got wide coverage.

    Turns out people are not as spooked by it as you hoped they would be.

  7. Tane 7

    Billy, I don’t think it really got much of a run in the election campaign. A lot of people had heard about it, and didn’t like it, but I don’t think it was really front of mind by the time polling day came around. People I talked to seemed to think it had either been dropped or toned back, or had forgotten all about it.

    If it had been up to me it would have formed a major part of the Left’s campaign – our ‘anti-smacking bill’, you could argue, but it wasn’t to be.

    I guess we’ll see what happens when the Nats try to bring it in.

  8. infused 8

    Hey Tane, guess what? Because of that change, I might employ someone now. Try talking to small businesses about employing people. It’s a nightmare.

    [Tane: Anecdotal evidence of a right-wing troll – excuse me if I’m underwhelmed. I’ll stick with the evidence for now: http://www.dol.govt.nz/PDFs/er-problems.pdf ]

  9. DeeDub 9

    I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation as to how being able to dismiss someone for no reason within this three month period makes small businesses more likely to think about hiring more staff??

    Captcha: opposition nymph

  10. Billy 10

    Allow me, DeeDub,

    Terminating someone’s employment is complex and getting it wrong is expensive. Many employers (particularly smaller employers) therefore prefer not to take the risk (especially where the potential employee is riskier: has a criminal record, a patchy work history or an unsightly gang tatoo) and err on the side of not employing people where they can get away with it.

  11. DeeDub 11

    Then Billy, they shouldn’t be in business. Bloody hell – undisclosed criminal record or ANYTHING that serious undisclosed is already grounds for dismissal. If you can’t see the tattoo how is it a problem??? Work history??? FFS check references!!! If you can’t make the right call on hiring or not I would seriously question your business accumen. This proposed legislation is bullshit. Pure and simple. I have managed big and small businesses and never had a problem with employment issues that could not be dealt with.

    It also opens up the possibility of ‘frivilous’ employment. Employers have not invested much in a position if they can just decide to fire the person after three months….. whats to stop them taking a ‘punt’ on some poor soul who, through no fault of their own, is suddenly jobless…

    Still yet to hear a sensible and likely, or even vaguely sane reason.

    As for how this is supposed to help the governments supposed ‘productivity’ drive? I’m frankly baffled.

  12. Billy 12

    whats to stop them taking a ‘punt’ on some poor soul who, through no fault of their own, is suddenly jobless

    You’re right of course. It’s much better that they never get the chance.

  13. bobo 13

    Isn’t it up the the employer to do a thorough background check on the potential employee where such things as criminal , patchy work histories show up.. and if the applicant lies on their cv it’s a criminal offense , just ask John Davy.

  14. DeeDub 14

    Well it might be for the employee…. but don’t think about their welfare eh, mate?

    You seem to assume that all employers have decent and fair intentions. This legislation is open to serious abuse with no consequences for the perps.

    It’s not something most Kiwis will warm to once they realise what’s happening. And mark my words – this legislation WILL be used and abused by the less scrupulous.

  15. Rex Widerstrom 15

    just ask John Davy

    …or Maryanne Thompson.

  16. Sarah 16

    Love your crocodile tears Tane.

    National’s policy on restricting workers rights is very light. Very light indeed.

  17. gingercrush 17

    bobo – and soon to be the former head of Immigration.

  18. jake 18

    Yes, Tane, let’s drive the small businesses of New Zealand into complete extinction and make the dole a better option than the minimum wage.

  19. DeeDub 19

    Jake, that’s such a compelling and eloquent argument . . . thanks for your contribution.

  20. Billy 20

    DeeDub: Well it might be for the employee . but don’t think about their welfare eh, mate?

    Let me get this straight. Your position is that it is better for the employee that he never gets a chance? Thank God these poor souls have you to look after their interests, DeeDub.

  21. Rocket Boy 21

    The 90 day probation period in an employment contract makes sense and yes it encourages employers to employ people. This is not anecdotal evidence, this is the experience of an employer (me) in taking on new staff.

    Someone can interview well and may have glowing references but you don’t really know how they will fit in and what their suitability for a position is until you have actually employed them. Trouble is under the existing legislation it is almost impossible for someone who does not meet your expectations to be sacked, which means you tend to be over cautious and not give people a chance at employment if you have any doubts about them at all.

    I know you are trying to protect workers against bad employers who will use the 90 probation period to hire and fire staff and avoid having them employed as long term full time but at the cost of protecting those 1% of workers you are making it harder for all employers who actually want to do the right thing.

  22. Bill 22

    Found this interesting and relevant extract about Obama’s approach to unions. The article (url pasted below) goes on to examine some of the organising difficulties that some within the union movement perceive in the US context. Not dissimilar to here really. I’d question how much of the rhetoric from a speech given over a year ago translates into legislation now that he is elected. But cynical doubt aside….

    “WITH OBAMA in the White House and a bigger Democratic majority in Congress, labor’s hopes of passing EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) are high–not least because of Obama’s explicit and emphatic support for the legislation.

    “It’s time we had a president who didn’t choke when he said the word union,”
    Obama said at the CTW convention in Chicago on September 25, 2007. “It’s not that hard. Union. Union. Nothing happens when you say it–other than give people some inspiration and some sense that maybe they’ve got a fighting chance…

    “That’s why I was one of the leaders fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. That’s why I’m fighting for it in the Senate, and that’s why I will sign that bill when I become president of the United States of America.”

    “I’ve walked picket lines before,” Obama added. “I’ve got some comfortable shoes at home. If it’s hot outside, then I’ve got a hat. If it’s cold outside, I’ve got a jacket. But if you are being denied your rights, I don’t care whether I’m in the United States Senate, or in the White House, I will make sure I am marching with you on the picket lines, because that’s what I believe in–making sure that workers have rights.”

    In response to a question about EFCA from a worker, Obama replied, “I won’t just wait for the bill to reach my desk. I will work actively as part of my agenda to make sure that it reaches my desk…

    “Everybody talks a lot about unions when they’re trying to get the union endorsements. And then the general election comes, and then there’s not much mention of unions. And then you win the presidency, and then you just stop talking about unions at all.

    “And as a consequence, you’ve got a lot of people all across America who could use a union, but they’re never hearing about it, they’re never encouraged to join, they’re never given a sense that being part of a union–that’s as American as apple pie.

    “That’s the reason we’ve got the minimum wage. That’s the reason we’ve got the 40-hour workweek. That’s the reason we’ve got overtime. That’s the reason workers are treated fairly and safely on the job. Our children have to hear that. Everybody’s got to hear it.

    “And that’s what the president can do is use the bully pulpit: ‘Join the union–there’s nothing wrong with it.’ That’s number one, because that sets the context for the debate in Washington.”


  23. toad 23

    If there is a problem getting employers to employee peopel who are disadvataged in the labour market, I can’t see what is wrong with a good old-fashioned employment subsidy to encourage them to do so, rather than removing new workers’ employment rights.

  24. Tane 24

    Rocket Boy:

    Jobs exists because there is work that needs to be done, not because it’s easier to fire jokers.

    It’s not hard to remove staff who underperform. You just have to, y’know, manage them properly. That’s what managers are supposed to do. Or take more care and professionalism in hiring practices. If you can’t manage your staff properly without demanding the state takes away basic workers’ rights to a fair hearing and a right of appeal then you really have to look at yourself.

    As for the grievance gravy train, that’s rubbish. DoL research last year found the incidence of employment problems is low, and that the perceptions employers have of many large, informal payouts was not matched by the evidence. The current legislation works.

    Seriously, some NZ employers need to quit their moaning and learn to manage their businesses properly.

  25. DeeDub 25

    Billy:”Let me get this straight. Your position is that it is better for the employee that he never gets a chance? Thank God these poor souls have you to look after their interests, DeeDub.”

    Not at all. I just believe there are fairer ways to give potential employees that chance. Removing an employees rights is not the way to go.

    It is typical of some business owners to think that they are somehow doing people a favour by employing them. It would be just as arrogant and stupid for an employee to think they are doing the business a favour by working for them.

    I believe in a fair exchange of labour for pay within a regulated system that significantly disadvantages neither party.

    If you think that’s unreasonable, frankly you’re an idiot.

  26. Alexandra 26

    It is a myth that it is almost impossible to sack someone. Currently employers are required to act fairly and provide the worker an opportunity to improve their performance. That is a reasonable and just requirement. Lets be clear the 90 day probation period is for the benefit of employers not potential empoyees. The law will not provide employment opportunities. Either a business needs to employ someone or doesnt…plain and simple.

  27. Billy 27


    Round here it is considered poor form to call someone an idiot simply because they disagree with you. Retard.

  28. Rocket Boy 28

    Tane, jobs exist because there is a future expectation of work and that future expectation is based on things like forward orders and confidence in your market place. The decision to offer someone a job is not a simple ‘do we have work?, yes/no’ discussion it depends on a number of factors, not least being ‘can we find someone suitable for the position?’. Many businesses work on the principle of ‘we have people lets find work for them’ rather than ‘we have work lets find people’.

    Looking at your other points:
    It is hard to remove staff unless you want to push a pile of money at them to go away. I am not saying it should be easier but it does make sense to have trial periods in employment contracts.

    As for ‘not being able to manage’ people and having to ‘look at yourself’ and ‘learning to manage their businesses properly’, it sounds like you are an expert at running a business, I guess you have a solid business background with plenty of experience to back up your statements? Or are you just coming at this with the blinkered view of an old fashioned unionist?

  29. Tane 29

    Rocket Boy, you might be surprised to know my background in business. But that’s beside the point. I also know plenty of people in business – good employers – who don’t spend their time whingeing about our employment law and just make sure they manage their staff properly. They don’t have any problems. In fact, the managers I’ve heard advocating the 90 day no rights period the loudest are without exception the ones who could do with some basic management skills the most.

  30. DeeDub 30


    I only said that if someone thinks “a fair exchange of labour for pay within a regulated system that significantly disadvantages neither party” is unreasonable they must be an idiot.

    So are you telling us you think that’s unreasonable?

  31. Billy 31

    DeeDub: No. I’m not.

    Why so smug?

  32. Rocket Boy 32

    Tane, I don’t think I am whingeing, I simply think that based on my experience of running a business that a 90 day probation period in employment contracts makes a lot of sense.

    I don’t have too many issues with the ERA, remember good businesses need good employees as much as employees need good businesses to work for.

  33. DeeDub 33

    Billy: Why so smug?

    What? Smug? Me? Heh heh heh …. hardly, mate.

    I do think it’s funny though that you came out all bluster and holier than thou in support of this pernicious legislation only to end up agreeing with me that it’s manifestly unfair to new employees.

    Becuase if you believe you can agree with me re: fair exchange that disadvantages neither party, then you have to conceed that the proposed legislation will disavdantage new employees hugely.

    If not, and with all due respect, you are the aforementioned idiot.


  34. DeeDub 34

    Rocketboy: “I don’t have too many issues with the ERA, remember good businesses need good employees as much as employees need good businesses to work for.”

    Then explain to us all how this legislation is actually required and how it will increase the likelyhood of you, or anyone, employing more full-time, long-term staff?

    Also I wonder if good, confident emlpoyers who back themselves as busniess managers will be able to contract out of this legislation and offer jobs without this probationary period?

  35. Rocket Boy 35

    DeeDub – I think I have already explained why the 90 day period makes sense and how it increases the likelihood of an employer taking on someone knowing that if it does not work out there is an ‘out’.

    I am not sure that it has anything to do with good employers ‘backing themselves’, like I said you can only tell so much from an interview (actually 3 interviews for our latest employee) and sometimes things just don’t work out like you hoped.

    Think of it like this – how many people live with their partner before they marry them? Just about everyone……… do I need to explain this analogy further?

  36. Billy 36

    DeeDub. I’m going to ignore you from now on. You seem a bit dull, tiresome and attention-seeking.


  37. DeeDub 37


    Great argument.

  38. Billy 38

    Stop seeking my attention. Are you in love with me or something?

  39. DeeDub 39


    Your question: How many people live with their partner before they marry them?

    Answer: plenty.

    My question: How does this help lower the divorce rate?

    Answer: not at all.

    A totally specious analogy, surely, mate?

    There is always an ‘out’ in current employment law and you well know it. Yes, it’s not just as simple as saying ‘it’s not working out, see ya’ – but neither should it be in my opinion. That’s why the general public will not be happy with this law once they see it in practice.

  40. DeeDub 40

    Billy – a spot of mild homophobia perhaps??? Surely not from a rightie? Never?!!!

    I thought you were ignoring me?

    Well done so far…. why argue the issue when you can resort to this kind of ‘John Key level’ politics.

  41. Rocket Boy 41

    DeeDub – of course there is an ‘out’ and yes I know it but if that is what people are doing already why all the alarm if a 90 probation period is actually added to the law?

    And what has the divorce rate got to do with anything? My point is – it is human nature to want to trial something before committing, why should this not include employment?

    And if as you say ‘I believe in a fair exchange of labour for pay within a regulated system that significantly disadvantages neither party.’ Then how come the employee has the right to terminate the contract at any stage with an agreed amount of notice but the employer does not have the same right?

  42. DeeDub 42


    Just because something is ‘human nature’ doesn’t make it fair or right. That road leads to social Darwinism, and it’s dangerous to even take a half-step towards that kind of thinking in my experience.

    You know that we are alarmed about this change becuase the law is seriously open-ended and it denies new employees any kind of job security. An employee trades his/her labour/loyalty for more than just pay. Job security is often a huge motivating factor in accepting an employment offer. Take that away and just see what happens to employment relations in NZ.

    “Then how come the employee has the right to terminate the contract at any stage with an agreed amount of notice but the employer does not have the same right?”

    Because the employer, if he/she runs the business properly (assuming it’s a smart business idea in the first place) stands to make large PROFITS over time that he/she has no legal obligation to share with staff.

  43. Rocket Boy 43

    DeeDub – so finally we get down to it, PROFITS are the issue.

    Job security – what’s that? Ever tried running a business? There is no safety net – none, I’ve even got guarantees over my home.

    A 90 day probation period, now that is small fry compared to the downside for me if my business does not perform.

    But I’m not complaining (or whingeing), far from it – I just think a 90 day probation period in employment contracts makes a lot of sense.

  44. DeeDub 44


    “Job security – what’s that? Ever tried running a business? There is no safety net – none, I’ve even got guarantees over my home.

    A 90 day probation period, now that is small fry compared to the downside for me if my business does not perform.”

    Yes, of course! That’s the trade off for the profit motive. Business owners aren’t generally quick to share profits with employees. That’s fine. As long as in trade off they offer a modicom of job security and a fair, living, regular income to their employees. Workers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of the risk of business.

    I actually run my own business now. That’s my choice as it’s yours. Noone held a gun to our heads…. if our homes are mortgaged tough shit, who made us do that? Our staff? Why did we take on debt? Because we have some altruistic idea to ‘grow wealth’ for NZ and to be able to hire more people, or because we thought our business idea was sound and forecasted a profit of some margin in the medium to longterm? Get real. Staff don’t participate in the profit, so they don’t participate in the debt or worry either . . .

    You ARE whingeing I’m afraid. And it’s not pretty.

    You just watch this law redefine employment relations for the worse in very short order. If it actually creates real, long-term jobs or improves small business growth I will eat my guitar collection.

  45. Rocket Boy 45

    I actually think my business does do some wider good than just line my pockets. In fact there are 4 owners who all work in the business and we share the profits. There is a certain feel-good factor in being part of something that is larger than just yourself, provides jobs and earns the country some foreign exchange.

    What is the best way to eat guitar? Oven roasted, pan fried or on the BBQ?

  46. DeeDub 46

    LOL…. I don’t doubt you may be one of the good guys, RocketBoy. (Nice one)

    Unfortunately you’re in a minority there though and you seem to assume that others follow that line. They typically don’t.

    I won’t be dining on Gibson anytime soon.

  47. gingercrush 47

    DeeDub is more like dumb dumb.

  48. DeeDub 48

    Thanks for your stellar contribution to the debate as usual, ginger. 😛

    And you’re obviously really, really clever . . . and some kind of wit.

    Well . . . maybe a fuckwit.

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