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Workers stand up to exploitative bosses

Written By: - Date published: 11:23 am, April 19th, 2009 - 5 comments
Categories: Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Head of the Unite union, Matt McCarten, writes about the Synovate lockout and how foreign-owned businesses try to exploit New Zealand workers:

[The] owners offer workers essentially nothing above the minimum wage then expect everyone to roll over and accept it. The normal threat is to close and go offshore.

This is supposed to terrify the workforce into submission. But, frankly, no matter what concessions workers make they’ll never compete with countries like India. Unless the Act Party has its way and the minimum wage is abolished.

Call centres in New Zealand are almost all owned by Australian interests and serve the Australian market. Their unions have maintained their contracts and the going wage rate is A$22 ($27.70) an hour, twice what the Kiwi workforce is paid.

You have probably worked it out by now, that the purpose of the Kiwi call centres is to threaten the Aussie workers that their work will be shipped off to our side of the Tasman unless they agree to wage cuts.

So, Kiwi workers are used to keep down workers’ pay and conditions in Australia and we’re kept in line with offshoring to India. It’s a race to the bottom.

Increasingly, new Australian owners sack the entire old management and appoint their own nationals into the top company roles. These appointees are almost always on short-term sojourns to test them before they are promoted back home. The measure of performance is that they are to cut costs and maximise profits.

This means cut staff, work them harder and pay them less. As they have no intention of assimilating into our society they don’t particularly care about any long-term damage.

Several times I’ve had Australian managers tell me they can’t believe how passive Kiwi workers are and that in their country their workers wouldn’t put up with such crap. Of course, workers do fight back collectively if they want to be treated respectfully. But our transtasman cousins seem to relish some sort of Aussie Rules game when it comes to industrial relations with their new acquisitions.

The solution is obvious. If workers want a fair deal from the bosses they need to pool their strength in a union. Individually, workers have nearly no bargaining power; together they can get gains.

Make no mistake, if workers at Synovate had not been unionised they would have had to individually accept the pay the company offered – barely more than the minimum wage (or they can always ‘go down the road’, because there are plenty of jobs about eh?). Because they were unionised and didn’t crumble when the bosses played hardball by locking them out, the workers won a pay rise. The union gives workers the power to get a fair deal.

5 comments on “Workers stand up to exploitative bosses ”

  1. jason 1

    Great advertisement for unionisation I say. Pitty for workers at ASB.

  2. Bill 2

    Synovate are obviously just slightly behind the times. As the global market economy continues to teeter and crash companies like Synovate will of course be scrambling to show us just how patriotic they are.

    An avalanche of press releases is due any day soon to the effect that companies are putting the good of the country first.

    The first step will be in the form of handsome wage offers (to stimulate demand) at the expense of their hitherto insatiable appetite to realise profit at all costs.

    From recent TV advertising extolling the virtues of Kiwi industries it is to be expected that the dairy and seafood industries will be first up to the mark.

    Good on them!

  3. ben 3

    Foreign-owned companies pay on average around 1.4 times the wage of local firms in first world economies and double the local wage in third world economies (Wolf 2004: 235-6). They do this by increasing capital intensity and introducing new production methods and ideas and raise the productivity of local workers.

    If this is exploitation most would take it. I can understand unions being upset about it, what with this sort of compensation doing them out of a job.

    • BLiP 3.1

      Your argument fails in the six words of the first sentence in the first paragraph when you say “on average”.

      “Average” is a concept. In the real world, the foreign-owned companies pay their home nation executives by the container load while dispensing minimum wage to locals – oh, yeah, just to be fair, the minimum wage can, possibly, be topped up with a performance bonus if you turn up every day, keep your trap shut and do what you’re told.

      If this is exploitation, you’re welcome to it.

  4. BLiP 4

    The foreign-owned businesses that own our media have begun the softening up process already. Today’s Sunday Star Times (19th April 2009, P3 – can’t find a link) has a piece quoting employment agencies saying New Zealand workers need to exhibit humilty and gratefulness at job interviews and nod slavishly when the employer offers a lower wage. The New Zealand Fox News Herald’s Diana Clement href=http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10567174> tells us we need to avoid “recession depression” and start using affirmations, visualisation, and reflection to programme ourselves to be positive about the situation. The same paper’s Brian Fallow wants us to believe that the silver lining to the economic depression is that there’s no more inflation – isn’t that a sign of deflation and wouldn’t that be just what we need at the moment?

    Meanwhile, the stage is being set for a harsh budget to preface the implementation of National’s wet dreams “going forward”. In fact, the only sense I could make of the media’s coverage of the depression this weekend came, ironically, from a P. J. O’Rourke quote . When told: Roger Douglas is back in Parliament, as part of the new Government, he replied:

    You guys are out of sync with everybody, aren’t you?

    And, while I’m on my media band wagon (and assuming anyone has read this far into a BLiP blether) what about this for another example of the Crosby/Textor management of another John Key lie. How clever to make the admission on a Friday afternoon, using anonymous spokesmen and when the Goober is on holiday in China with his family (refer “Political Diary” NZH 18th Apirl 2009 p18). Now why do you suppose the Herald didn’t check the facts when it was pumping up the crime issue during the election . . . hmmm?

    Part of being able to stand up to the bosses is being armed with the facts. The MSM is failing miserably – the task falls to the blogsphere.

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