Archive for December, 2008

Nats hurry to strip workers of rights

December 10, 2008

The Nats’ attack on workers’ rights is astounding for a number of reasons.

First, let’s get one thing straight. The proposed 90-day probation period may be intended to make it easier for small employers to take on staff, or it may be a sop to the small businesses who are a core part of National’s support base — or more likely both of these. But, it is also an attack on workers’ rights. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.

Second, its introduction is an abuse of our democratic process. Having listened to the Nats and their stooges dribble on over the last few years (occasionally with some reason) about corners being cut in terms of the legislative process, I expected at least a token attempt to do right by our democratic process. More fool me. The term “hypocrite” doesn’t do justice to the contemptuous, two-faced, double standards on display.

So, no opportunity to make submissions on these proposals. What’s that? I could have last year? But last year it was a private member’s bill with little chance of passing. Next year, I would definitely have made a submission. I’ve been disenfranchised.

The proposals themselves? Where’s the evidence of the nature of the problem? Oh, some of the Nats’ small business friends complain that they get stuck with dud employees and have to pay them off to get rid of them.  Are we sure that the problem isn’t partly the small business people, who, you know, usually haven’t got much idea or any training in how to be a good (in every sense) employer? How much effort or expertise have these “unfortunate” employers been putting into their recruitment processes for example?

Further, business people don’t have to engage expensive lawyers and pay out any employee who threatens a personal grievance. It’s bad practice and merely encourages more abuse. I have advised small employers myself to break the cycle of payouts, and it works, once everybody understands that you’re prepared to go to court.

As for the idea that these proposals will do anything whatsoever to enhance NZ’s economic prosperity, that’s just laughable. They’re based on the same notions as the Employment Contracts Act — adopt a Guatemalan-style labour market regime and get the Swiss economy — and are no more likely to succeed.

Mustn’t forget National’s new bosom buddies either. Tariana and co are going to strike a little trouble further down the road, regardless of how they respond to this (and that it’s not clear how they will speaks volumes). In the last (September) quarter(pdf), Maori unemployment was 9.3%, compared to 3.2% for Pakeha. And guess which group is employed in the workplaces where the employers are most likely to abuse these provisions?

Nope, this is policy based on easy and erroneous assumptions, the promises are empty, and its manner of introduction is contemptuous of democracy and the New Zealand people. Worse than I expected from National, and I wasn’t expecting a lot.

Note: See an earlier post for a more detailed discussion of the proposal.


Welcome to the land of the free

December 6, 2008

For a couple of months, I’m calling Pasadena home, and get to reacquaint myself with the oversize, adolescent problem-child that is Los Angeles. The city that gave the world Hollywood, drive-in churches, gangsta rap, and now, organic sunless tanning,amongst other cultural treasures.

On arrival at LAX, my heart skipped a beat when my wife responded to the Customs & Border Protection Officer’s dry observation that “you’ll notice a few changes” with a cheery, “Yes, change you can believe in.” As I started to warn her, “Best not to discuss politics…”, she followed that up with a bright, “We’ve come to a land of hope.” A friend was once flung into jail with little cause by the customs officials here, and another, transitting through Miami hauled off and interrogated for half a day, so I drew a deep breath. Luckily, the CBPO was either a Democrat or Obama-Independent, or a Republican with a sense of humour. He was cool, but twice wished us an enjoyable stay as our encounter came to an end. Then we were in the Land of the Free.