Fairness at Work – Why union members are rallying

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Green Party member Sam McKean supports the union rally.

Today I attended the Auckland rally organised by trade unions in response to the latest moves from the government to drive down wages.

Union members from the both the traditional white collar and blue collar industries – from the Public Service Association and the teachers unions to the Service and Food Workers union and the Engineers union) turned up to the one hour rally in their thousands to voice their concern about the legislation that the government has introduced that will undermine union rights and collective bargaining in New Zealand.

The Employment Relations Amendment bill introduces a raft of changes to collective bargaining that will effectively drag us back in time to the 1991 Employment Contract Act where enterprise-based bargaining replaced industry-wide standards and individual bargaining replaced collective bargaining in many workplaces across the country.

The legislation includes restrictions on collective bargaining and removes the duty to conclude – which means that employers can start negotiations with no intention of finishing them. It also undermines the few industry standards that we have in Multi-Employer Collective Agreements by allowing employers to withdraw from them.

And worryingly it removes the protection offered to new workers with the removal of the 30-day rule which meant that in workplaces with a collective employment agreement the collective would be offered to the new employee and they had 30 days to decide if they wanted to stay on it and join the union or negotiate for themselves.  Now New Zealand workers face  the 90-day-trial laws introduced last term by the government that means workers can be sacked for no reason within their first 90 days of work and youth rates.  Not to forget the fact there are  thousands ‘job-seekers’ created by the recent welfare reforms which means they are desperate to get a job. Combined this all adds up to a climate where workers will become increasingly compliant and take what they can get even if it does undercut other workers.

CTU President Helen Kelly outlined these aspects – and the other parts of the legislation that remove the only job protection low-paid workers employed by contractors in the kitchen, laundry and cleaning industries receive if their employer changes – and all the others at the rally and has called on the government to drop the bill.

The CTU was one of the first to address the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee last week and is one of around 12,000 submissions sent through to the select committee to consider.  While the vast majority are from ordinary workers and their unions employers have also rallied to support the bill.  Helen Kelly summarises one of them here – which is fairly representative of most of the industry ones.

When the Minister of Labour Simon Bridges introduced this he said it would introduce ‘balance’ in the relationship between employer and employees.

He completely ignores the fact that employment relations has always been weighted in favour of the boss and what he is doing with this bill is creating a climate of fear where workers will not be able to speak out or negotiate better pay and conditions.

8 thoughts on “Fairness at Work – Why union members are rallying

  1. Good onya Denise..
    This Govt. is just moving the country further to the right.. ‘neo-liberal’ agenda to look after the wealthiest first & let the rest ‘fight over the scraps’. The longer they stay in power the more we will see workers rights eroded. Key & his cronies; say they are creating ‘a brighter future for kiwis’ BUT who is he really talking about.. the top 10% who got 40% of tax cuts OR all kiwis. It seems so obvious to me that the workers are just part of ‘their under-class’ they are attacking more & MORE !! Shame on this selfish/smug Govt.

    kia-ora

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  2. Kerry,

    Before holding up Scandinavian countries as paragons of economic virtue, you may need to catch up on the latest mutterings from over there.

    http://frontpagemag.com/2011/steven-plaut/does-scandinavian-socialism-work/

    Scandinavian countries are “socialist” in some senses and vibrantly capitalist in other senses. They are “socialist” in the sense that they have very high taxes with very generous social welfare services provided by the state, the famous “cradle-to-grave” welfare state. They are vibrantly capitalist in the sense that they have low levels of interference in markets by the government, low levels of regulation, low levels of nationalization of industry and capital, and almost no protectionism.

    and summarises

    The conclusion can only be one thing. The low poverty rate among Scandinavians in Scandinavian countries is thanks to the fact that Scandinavians work. It is NOT because socialism works!

    my emphasis added

    You may also want to read this

    http://www.economist.com/node/17039151

    A second trend is growing dissatisfaction with the “Swedish model”. Swedes are not about to become Thatcherites or tea-party tax-haters. Even on the right, voters and politicians favour consensus, equality and expansive public services. Nobody is standing on a platform of slashing the top rates of income tax (almost 60%) or the size of the state. Yet the centre-right has made welfare payments less generous, cut taxes for the lower-paid and trimmed the numbers on sickness benefit. Voters seem to approve.

    and summarised

    The third trend is a malaise in socialism, and not only in Scandinavia. Many had hoped that the financial crisis would lead to a renaissance of the left, because the perceived failure of free-market capitalism would pull voters back into supporting a bigger role for the state. And yet Sweden’s election will confirm that this is not happening. In Denmark and Finland (even, lately, in Norway) the left is falling back. Across much of Europe, with the exception of France, the crisis has so far seemed to help the right more than the left.

    Competence and moderation have been hallmarks of Mr Reinfeldt’s government. Other countries are interested, not least Britain. The Tory leader, David Cameron, a friend of Mr Reinfeldt’s, is also in coalition with the liberals. British public-sector reformers now look to Sweden for examples of greater competition and more private provision. So the Swedish model still appeals—but to the right, not the left. That is a mark of how far the Swedish Social Democrats have fallen.

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  3. The right wing propaganda machine is working hard on the Swedish problem Gerrit. There is a strong need to subvert and destroy their success and to make it clear that the prior successes of other nations didn’t actually happen.

    Fortunately those things DID happen, I remember them, I remember the US in the 50’s and 60’s, and I know liars when I run across them. I don’t need to know much more about someone. It only takes one lie to know.

    The Swedes still have an enviable GINI and so too the Germans. WE are saddled with the detritus of 30 years of lies now, and it is not getting better. The nonsense spouted, “that Scandinavians work. It is NOT because socialism works!” is just that. If the Swedes listen to that rubbish and shift to the right they will suffer, just as everyone else who has paid the slightest attention to that rubbish has suffered.

    Neo-liberalism is a fraud, a lie and a vile perversion for a working society to entertain. Reserved words omitted here.

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  4. BJ beat me to it.

    The advocates of the neo-liberal paradigm have a hard time explaining the correlation between more left wing Governments and greater economic and social success.

    Hence the desperate propaganda to try and pretend it is not the case.

    Compare Pinochets Chile and Sweden around the same time. Or Sweden after decades of socialism and Greece after decades of right wing fascist Government.

    It is notable that as Sweden swallows more and more of the neo-liberal poison, like us, how much they are going down in previously excellent social and economic indicators. Look at their latest PISA scores.

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  5. I remember a discovery documentary lauding the “success” of Freidmanite economics in Chile.

    Ignoring the fact that it took 17 years after the ouster of Pinochet, and a complete reversal of neo-liberal policies, to get back to where they were before.

    One way to solve unemployment problems I suppose. Kill off 100’s of thousands of workers.

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  6. If work was the answer. We work much longer hours for less money than the Swedes.

    I actually worked alongside a Swedish contract Engineer recently. He was horrified by my workload. “Never happen in Sweden” he said. Unfortunately, if they let the neo-liberal religion take hold, it will.

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