Nats planning more attacks on workers’ rights

Not content with its 90 day fire at will legislation, effective nil increases to the minimum wage, undermining workers’ rights to four weeks’ annual leave, and restricting union access to workplaces, John Key has revealed National is planning more attacks on workers’ rights.  Radio New Zealand reports:

Mr Key has told the Seafood Industry Council conference in Wellington a more flexible labour market is better for both employers and workers.

He was reluctant to spell out what other changes National might make to employment law, refusing to say whether they include further restrictions on collective bargaining.

But he says that while the changes will be good for both employers and workers, trade unions won’t be happy.

My pick is that National is set to dust off this little gem turd from its 2008 pre-election proposals on employment relations, despite a post-election assurance to the NZ Council of Trade Unions that the Government would not proceed with it:

Restore workers’ rights to bargain collectively without having to belong to a union.

That would take us back to the dark days of the hated Employment Contracts Act, under which employers could effectively set up “bosses unions” or “employee associations” to “represent” some of the more vulnerable workers in the workplace, impose an employer-friendly and worker unfriendly agreement on the employee association, and then tell the union, under threat of locking their members out, that their only choice is to accept the same rough deal.

The Greens want to promote higher wages by strengthening the ability of unions to bargain, including bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements and discouraging the passing on of union negotiated conditions to non-unionised employees.  National are clearly seeking to move in the opposite direction – lowering wages by undermining the ability of unions to bargain effectively.

51 Comments Posted

  1. Valis,

    I am saddened to hear that. I think that many people here, including yourself, would agree that the biggest challenge facing humanity this century will be to achieve a sustainable economy. I am willing to put most things on the table in order to achieve that. But it is clear that this Green party is not because it is beholden to the old traditional left of labor unions and alike.

    If the Nats need a coalition partner after the election, and wants to pass its labor market liberalization laws, are the Greens going to negotiate? Are they going to say we are willing to go into coalition provided we see a green energy policy? Or more investment in public transport? Or the timetable brought forward or carbon trading? It is clear from the Green party charter that this Green party will not be willing to negotiate, and as a result the environment and future generations will continue to suffer.

  2. So John Key will announce a nasty proposal, that is certain. We don’t need to wait until it’s ambush announcement on the night before the rugby final. We can campaign and strategise against it now.

    The big and greedy employers don’t wait until the announcement to lobby for what they want in the changes. They are hard at it now, shaping the policy behind closed doors with National ministers. National will bring back the ghost of the Employment Contracts Act, in a new, more sinister incantation.

    Let everyone know. Start changing the course of the electorate now. Use social networks effectively. Get people to recall how they were negatively affected by the ECA. Describe to new staff how wages were static and conditions worsened. Join your local union, support those who campaign for you. Discuss with your employer what they plan to do, or are whining for.

    Don’t be a clicktivist, talk to real people. YOUR OWN PERSONAL POSITION WILL BE WORSE OFF NEXT YEAR IF THIS GOES THROUGH. Do something about it. This is personal. Get motivated and get communicating. Employers only get vote, workers get many.

    This is only one reason to be angry at National, there are plenty more. Change doesn’t happen by asking politely or by being passive. Demand change, demand you retain your share of productive returns, with decent working conditions. Write down your personal political goal.

    If you’ve read this far, pause and make a note of the goal. The brain needs a target, the subconscious mind will work on the solution for you. Make it happen. Get motivated.

    And don’t think because you’re a salaried, non-union person you won’t also be negatively affected. More misery in society will catch up with you somehow, no matter how rich you are. You are more likely to read and think on this than someone less literate, less fortunate, or less fatigued through overwork than you. So think about their welfare, to save your own lunch because they just stole it, no longer being able to afford to buy their own.

  3. That’s what you and your RWNJ mates would like. Anyone with a brain leaving so you can have lots of ignorant followers.

    Some of us consider family and friends more important than money.

  4. Kerry says “Have considered India. $US2000/day for someone with my skills..”

    You should go.

    But if you did you’d then be one of those rich elite people that you hate.

  5. If you were right Photo, then when youth rates were removed there would have been a corresponding increase in Adult employment. But we know that is not the case don’t we.
    As youth unemployment increased so did that of Adults. Which shows the cause of extra unemployment was not removing youth rates.

    Business cannot be profitable when their customers are not paid enough to buy their products.

  6. Kerry says “Watching employment and wages rise together in China, India and Korea. While they are falling together in the religiously Neo-Liberal countries.”

    oooh – lets all emigrate to China and India for those high wage factory jobs then.

  7. Kerry says “The bleeding obvious is there was a general reduction in employment which disproportionately hit younger people.”

    Right – so it was just a big coincidence that just when youth rates were removed, youth unemployment skyrocketed from 15% to 25%, and aren’t coming back down again.

    But you keep telling us the opposit eis true – when pay rates go up unemployment comes down.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, if I want to employ someone and I have a choice of someone with experience and a reliable work history, references etc, or a spotty faced teenager fresh from school – I don’t like the chances of the kid if I’ve got to pay them the same as someone with far more experience and a good work record.

    Removal of youth rates has effectively priced them out to the employment market.

  8. Katie. Well put.

    If any one still believes National is the party for, small, business they should have a look around here. At what is happening to every one in business, apart from booze and fast food outlets. The lowering incomes of their customers bite after another 3 years of Neo-Liberal dogma.

    Watching employment and wages rise together in China, India and Korea. While they are falling together in the religiously Neo-Liberal countries.

  9. “And removal of youth rates is responsible for 10,000”

    Rubbish. If that was the case there would have been a corresponding decrease in adult unemployment as adults were employed instead.
    The bleeding obvious is there was a general reduction in employment which disproportionately hit younger people.
    Jobs do not magically appear as wages are dropped. In fact evidence (heard of that photo), shows that the more wages are dropped the less money remains in the community, more small business fails and there is less employment.

    Good article for you Photo. And for anyone else who thinks they should be able to inflict their view of the world on others without giving them a say.

  10. “The problem here is right in our back yard”.
    Of course it is. Whole generation of Managers trained to cost cut and burgle rather than build up. Who have no clue how to motivate and get the best out of their staff. Even the notable “left wing” publication, Management magazine thinks this is a problem. Unfortunately it is also in the US back yard. Where this type of manager originates as well as other countries..

  11. Without defending McDo’s at all, can I point out that their industry practice is comparable to all of the franchise fast-food companies brought into NZ by head-franchisee Restaurant Brands?
    Unite! union have been addressing this on multiple employer sites, as well as international retail chain JB HiFi. All insist on minimum wage conditions for all employees, without any guarantee of hours of work or provision of holiday pay, sick leave or other standard employment provisions that genuine businesses and public service organisations have to comply with.

    The business practices that we see now (casualisation, random roster, rolling unemployed through on 3-months rotations) are all a result of our legislation being brought into line with US standard employment practice, where unions have been all but outlawed in the past 5 decades.

    From 1992 (the ECA) onwards, young people in this country have had a hammering trying to get any employment above the minimum wage. Couple that with a punitive education funding legislation (Student Loans Act, also imported from US student loans legislation) and you’ll discover the main reason why our young people leave the country in droves once they’ve qualified – neither in Uni nor in high school have they been able to earn decent hourly wages, and the thought of staying here and trying to pay off a student loan on low wages/salaries is despairing.
    Our most educated, most mobile workers leave for other parts.

    Our employers bemoan the ‘low grade of the average worker’ without recognising that their employment practices are the reason why only those who cannot find a way out of their hometown are left here.

    What is the end result?
    How about this: Small town NZ, Kawerau, with one employer of note, the timber industry, and unemployed teenagers suiciding at unprecedented rates.

    Is this the NZ we want to see?

    And before someone starts on a bigoted rant about ill-educated progeny of provincial towns, how about this one:
    Secondary School balls are turning into binge-drinking competitions amongst the children of the rich as well; even after a teenage boarder at Kings died of alcohol poisoning last year.

    What is happening here?
    Well, there’s not a lot of young people with hope for their future out there. You can’t look at dud wages and employment conditions in isolation, they are part of a raft of unpleasant truths our young are trying to come to grips with. National are doing nothing, except defending the rights of overseas shareholders of MNC’s to strip-mine our economy.

  12. Ryan, sorry you got the wrong end of the stick, but our Charter is very clear. People like you who think social issues aren’t related to environmental issues pop up here from time to time, so don’t think we haven’t heard it all before. And as we’re not a “traditional left-wing party”, we certainly won’t be giving up our brand either.

  13. Sigh. Once again this post motivates me to give my vote to another party other than the Greens. I have consistently given my party vote to the Greens since turning 18, because I was under the illusion that the “Green Party” stood for first and foremost the environment. Yet the Greens consistently spend their political capital on social justice issues.

    If the Greens wish to be the traditional left-wing party, that is fine. I just ask you renounce the “Green” label so that another party can stand up and fulfill the responsibility of protecting the environment under the Green banner. Right now, you guys are in the way.

  14. Kerry says “With 25000 kids unemployed in Northland they know they can always get more cannon fodder.”

    And removal of youth rates is responsible for 10,000 of those.(several years of youth unemployment at 15% jumped to 25% when youth rates were abolished).

  15. Though, in fairness, they are no different from most minimum wage employers.

    The problem isn’t with McDonalds the global corporation. Its to do with Kiwi managers. And in your case, it sounds like it is the local franchise holder, someone you’ve probably seen in McD, or may even know.

    The problem here is right in our back yard.

  16. “In what way is your local franchisee a “absolutely shit employer”,”

    Lets see where do I start.

    Though, in fairness, they are no different from most minimum wage employers.
    Workers have to be on call even though they are not guaranteed any work on any given week.
    They cannot take another part time job even though most had between 12 and 25 hours a week.
    Kids sacked for, fraternizing with managers, joining a union, questioning work practices.
    Abuse of requirements for smoko and lunch breaks.

    The kids know not to question as they will get no further local employment. To the stage where they beg the Union or Adult advocates not to support them against their employers because it will only backfire.

    Full time employees having their hours reduced to make room for Government subsidised workers off the dole. Who are then “encouraged to leave” (Usually by a reduction in hours)after 3 months to make room for more.

    With 25000 kids unemployed in Northland they know they can always get more cannon fodder.

    Not only are minimum wage workers not paid enough to live on in a full working week they are also subject to the delights of being part of a “flexible’ Labour force.

  17. more evidence that the Nats are closer to ACT than they appear.. mantra of the business round table.. no mimimum wages, no minimum work contract, no unions.. create an underclass of low-paid workers.. keep them down-trodden.. divide & conquer !! kia-ora

  18. Toad’s quoting of the DimPosts quoting of Wikipedia has some validity, but overlooks several things:
    – it does not deny that these reforms were needed (which was my point)
    – it does not provide any proof these reforms were needed (which was my point)
    – it does not not that complsuory personalised super super (which is an up-sceled versionof what I was just arguing for in another thread) was defeated in NZ both in parliment and by popular vote

    Indeed, The DimPosts article is effectively doing what many lefties do: blaming the medecine and not the illness for the side-effects

  19. dbuckley – let me put it another way.

    WITHOUT profitable business, you can use all the arguements in the world, but you’ll never get much in wage rises if a business has little profit.

  20. Jimmy says “lol photo, some champion of business you are. Google ‘McDonald’s property empire’ and have a look at the business structure.”

    Or rather than speculation, you can simply look at their annual report and get actual facts.

    McDonalds make around 70% of their revenue from their own restaurants, 20% of their income from rent, and around 10% from franchise royalties.

    And the value of their properties has been pretty static for a number of years.

  21. The overwhelming factor that leads to increased wages is profitable businesses.

    I’d love that to be more true than the grain of truth that is in that statement.

    (more) Profitable businesses provide the opportunity to increase wages, that is certainly true, but whether the business chooses so to do is dependent on many other factors, and supply and demand of workforce is one such element.

    In a country like NZ where there is a culture of paying minimum wage, that culture isn’t going to change unless it is forced upon businesses, and it isn’t likely to happen through supply and demand, its more likely that the opposite is true. Thus if businesses consider that it is acceptable to pay the minimum wage, then the minimum wage needs to be raised, frequently and aggressively.

    What I find perhaps most remarkable is that minimum wage employers are not embarrassed that their shoddy businesses cant support decent wages, or that they are sufficiently ugly human beings that they think that the minimum wage is a target rather than an admission of failure.

  22. Valis, wasn’t my answer detailed enough for you!?
    I’m not actually wading in to argue the merits, or not, of labour law changes. I’m just suggesting that, given limited time & resources, the Greenz need to choose their battles.
    I think this is someone else’s battle.

  23. Local variation then, probably because McD in NZ is so tiny its not worth the effort in setting up that system in NZ.

    In what way is your local franchisee a “absolutely shit employer”, other than the generic Kiwi problem that too many businesses pay minimum wage or there abouts?

  24. Photo. The 3% is AFTER the franchisees take their profit out.
    DB.I don’t know about elsewhere, but our local franchise owns their land and store. And they are absolutely shit employers.

  25. Wow, some rubbish here.

    The McDonalds corporation makes about half their income from being a landlord; in many markets (and especially in the USA) the McD corp owns the building in which the franchisee rents the retail presence from the corporation. So McD gets a (small) percenctage of the turnover of the store as a francise fee (and it is less than most other franchise organisations) and does well as a landlord. Owning the real estate was the brainchild of Harry J. Sonneborn, who saved McD from bankruptcy. Thus in 1982 McD took the title of the worlds largest owner of real estate.

    The franchisees are not in any way in the real estate busines; they are renters. Thus they dont get capital gains out of thier property because its not their property.

    In some markets (eg the UK) McD owns the stores, rather than them being franchised.

    Globally, McD is not an excessively profitable corporation. There are very few corporations of any size that have big returns on their shareholders investments. A corner dairy has very good margins, but as turnover is low, profit is not a big number.

    Locally, McD pays very low wages. The only way that is going to get fixed is by raising the minimum wage. McD will have to keep their margins, so the customer price will go up. As a McD cutomer, I’ve no problem with that at all.

    The only time when a flexible workforce benefits anyone is at the bottom of the pile; as people become more skilled and thus valuable the relationship changes from a buyers market to a sellers market.

    This is mostly about those businesses at the bottom of the heap that conventional wisdom says they can only survive because of low wages. I’d like that fixing too.

  26. photonz:

    “The overwhelming factor that leads to increased wages is profitable businesses”

    yeah right

    if mcdonalds is not a profitable business why do they bother ?

    or are they part of the US “health” industry ?

  27. lol photo, some champion of business you are. Google ‘McDonald’s property empire’ and have a look at the business structure.

  28. 3% dividends and Kerry says “Plenty of room for wages there.”.

    You say there’s plenty of margin in 3% – and you say you used to run your own business – yeah right.

  29. Not going to mention the franchisees profits are not included in your 3%, Photo.
    The profit and capital gains from owning a McD’s were the subject of a Waikato graduate thesis. Available from their library.
    Plenty of room for wages there.

  30. Kerry says “They make their money from the capital gains when they sell the site. Particularly is NZ due to our biased tax system.”

    Yeah – there’s thousands of MacDonalds land sites sold each year in NZ,… er…. maybe hundreds, …er… a few dozen, ….er….two,….MacDonalds sites sold in the last year.

    Actually I think it was none. They must be making a fortune selling no land.

    Probably all of NZ MacDonalds put together have made a total land sale annual profit that compares to what Mrs Smith made when she sold her one bedroom cottage down the street at Number 59

  31. Photo. Mc D’s is a franchise. Group income is after the franchisers have taken their profit. You forgot to mention also, that McDonalds Franchisees, like farmers, are mostly in the real estate business. I.E. They make their money from the capital gains when they sell the site. Particularly is NZ due to our biased tax system.

    Comparing NZ to an already failed State, like the USA, is not relevant.

  32. toad – Woolworths makes $1b form all it’s operations across Australia AND NZ from turnover of $27b – it’s a pretty low margin.

    You seem to make the basic economic error of ignoring scale when you see a bottom line profit.

    toad asks “Are you seriously suggesting they cannot afford to pay their employees somewhat more, even in difficult times such as this?”

    Yes – and it’s easy to roughly work out why.

    Investors in McDonalds get a annual dividend of just 3%, so there’s not massive profits being taken.

    If minimum wage workers got the rise the Greens are asking for ($2/hr), that’s 2 x 40 hrs/week x 52 weeks / year x 1.7 million MacDonald workers worldwide is NZ$7b which is more than the company makes in a year.

    (NZ MacDonalds workers already get around 50% higher hourly rate than those in the USA).

  33. @samiam 5:34 PM

    So, samiam, I have to ask… What are your thoughts on who should bear the cost of cleaning up our environment, and your suggested mechanism to achieve that?

  34. @samiam 5:18 PM

    This isn’t your fight…the Environment is.

    So are you suggesting it is ordinary workers struggling to make ends met who should bear the cost of cleaning up our rivers and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions?

    I think this is the Greens’ fight, because I want to see the cost of cleaning up our rivers and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions paid by those who can afford to pay it, rather than make the lives of those already struggling even more miserable.

  35. @Misanthropic Curmudgeon 3:43 PM

    Ah, someone who still believes in TINA.

    To quote Danyl at the Dim Post:

    The key difference between the two governments is that in Australia the transition from a quasi-socialist, state controlled economy was carefully managed; the government worked with the unions to mitigate the unemployment caused by transferring sectors of the economy to the free market. They introduced a capital-gains tax. They introduced compulsory superannuation savings. The increased benefit payments to offset the inevitable rise in income inequality.

    Sir Roger’s reforms were a lot less . . . considered. When New Zealand Forestry was turned into an SOE it caused unemployment in many rural communities to go from 1% to 60% – literally – overnight, and the section of the population this had the greatest impact on were the Maori rural working class who transferred onto benefits en-masse, and a few years later the benefits were slashed by Ruth Richardson. How’s that worked out for us as a nation in the long run? The deregulation of our finance sector wasn’t replaced by any oversight mechanism, which meant that when the stock market crashed in 1987 New Zealand’s economy suffered the greatest destruction of wealth per capita in the entire world.

    And you don’t even have your political history right. The Employment Contracts Act wasn’t introduced in the 1980s. Even Douglas didn’t go there. It came into force in 1991, some 7 years after the demise of the Muldoon Government, so you are on very shaky ground to argue that it was a necessary consequence of Muldoon’s economic mismanagement. Douglas had already addressed that, albeit in a very unpalatable way.

  36. @photonz1 4:26 PM

    They make a pretty skinny 3.7% profit on their turnover.

    Oh, come on, photonz1 – try quoting some actuals, rather than percentages. The McDonalds Corporation, a transnational company, regularly reports quarterly profits well in excess of $1 billion.

    Are you seriously suggesting they cannot afford to pay their employees somewhat more, even in difficult times such as this?

  37. Morgan says “By your logic, if these giant companies can’t afford it, no-one can.”

    Why is it, that when ever anybody says
    “By your logic…”
    they ALWAYS follow it with something really stupid that was never implied.

  38. Motgan asks “So I guess McDonalds or New World aren’t making enough profit..”

    No sure about New World – they’re not a public company. But the probably have a similar business to Woolworths/Countdown which does have info available.

    They make a pretty skinny 3.7% profit on their turnover.

  39. In frog saying “The legacy of the Employment Contracts Act and its consequent impact in depressing wages”, frog overlooks why wages were at their pre-ECA levels: the (effectively state run and nationalised) country was broke after living beyond its means after the double-wammy of the UK (being our captive market after WW2) looking to Europe and the oil shocks of the early 1970’s.

    Muldoon et al. had just continued to spend, and borrow to pay for it. The country was effectively producing nowt and livingof its credit cards. te country was only weeks away ofr not being able tomake the next benefit payment, and the would have caused riots in the streets.

    The actions of the early 80s were neccessary to stave of the countries creditors. After these actions, the country returned to where it should have been but for the ‘credit-card-living of the late 1970s and early 1980’s.

    The reforms of the 1980s saved this country from becoming a bananna republic with the IMF running it, but that fact is too unpalatable for many to accept.

  40. I’m fascinated that frog can consider freedom of association (which comes from being able to form a collective and bargin sans-union) a bad thing.

    An inherent aspect of freedom is being free to associate (or not) with whomever one chooses to. By requiring a person to join an organisation, frog condones a reduction in freedom and an oppressive society.

    Should webe compelled you joint the Freemasons? Or BoyScouts? Lions? So why a union? All these and other organisations can convey a public good, but that does not mean we must join the BoyScoust in order to go camping and tie knots.

    Further, this 90 day probationary period mentioned is not some new-fangled spawn of the devil as many lefties would like to make out: it is perfectly commonplace overseas in places like Australia, and mis-labveling it as ‘fire-at-will’ is simply erroeous hysterical propaganda at its most destructive.

    Further still, is/was the ECA itself: a great peice of legislation that allowed the worker (for the fisrt time) stick it to a bad employer where it hurt and seek compensation. Under the old union-dominated regeime, there was no ability for a wronged employee to sue a bad employer, and the ECA changed that.

    Thanks to the ECA, many employees were able to leave a bad employer with months of salary in their pocket, rather than just walk away as it had been.

  41. @photonz1

    So I guess McDonalds or New World aren’t making enough profit to pay their staff much more than minimum wage. By your logic, if these giant companies can’t afford it, no-one can.

  42. The overwhelming factor that leads to increased wages is profitable businesses.

    If you don’t understand that, then you’ll never be very successful at getting wages higher.

  43. @Jayson 2:31 PM

    That’s all dependent on ensuring the Nats don’t get the numbers at the election to ram this sort of stuff through. The fact that Key won’t reveal the detail of what is being proposed means that it is something that is sufficiently disturbing that he wants to leave as little time for opposition parties like the Greens and Labour to campaign against it.

    The legacy of the Employment Contracts Act and its consequent impact in depressing wages in the 1990s was a good part of the reason the Nats spent almost all of the next decade our of Government. This is the sort of policy that could well see some of the soft Nat vote from the last election moving in a Green direction.

Comments are closed.