Nats hurry to strip workers of rights

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.


Tags: , ,

24 Responses to “Nats hurry to strip workers of rights”

  1. Lee C Says:

    I’m piecing this together. I broadly agree with the assertion that the HRC should be taken seriously, but all I can find from them is a submission to Select Committee from 2006 – and this states that it is interested in equal pay and not to discuss other issues. An oral submission may have been made, viz this legislation? i also understand that there has been one reference to a discussion about this at select committee already? So which part of this is needlessly rushed, again? Are you are saying that ‘the left’ could afford to broadly ignore the 90 day legislation when it was a private members Bill, but in its arrogance, because it thought it would never happen, but can now be excused for not paying attention? Did the ‘left’ not refer to the kerfuffle over the s.59 amendment (which was a private member’s Bill) as the ramblings of paranoid righties? Perhaps they should have been a little more ‘paranoid’ themselves over this Bill? Also, I recall that the National Party did announce their intention to pass this law, and, as I recall, despite the ‘left’s’ froth, the consensus appeared to accept it as reasonable. The crux of this issue is that it attacks the union movement – which I suggested at the outset. But in a back-drop which saw so much partisan and sychophantic support for a government that loved to rush stuff through with urgency, can you blame the nats for doing this?
    Personally I’d love to see the bill debated properly, but to suggest that ‘the right’ is guilty of ‘hypocracy’ here is, frankly – hypocritical, perhaps brought on by teh fact that ‘the left’ were asleep at the wheel, or more interested in posturing thatn actually pulling their fingers out when this all went down in the first place.

  2. Tane Says:

    Lee, the fire at will bill does little if anything to attack the union movement – that will come later. If anything, it will likely lead to an increase in union membership. The reasons unions oppose this bill is because it takes rights of workers and leaves them open to abuse.

    So, anyway, how’s that whole shilling for the boss class thing working out for you Lee? Have you decided to give up on your whole laughable act about being a left-winger who’s just disenchanted with the EFA and likes that Key fellow?

  3. Lee C Says:

    Tane as you know I have a blog if you want to visit it under your own name and post your opinions without prejudice I would be more than happy to engage in a debate with you about whatever topic you wish to discuss. Including if you wish to get into a public pissing contest about how ‘left wing’ you are. Point in case re this situation – the EPMU’s national rallies at the time of the election were about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike, especially as at the same time the same union was ‘firing at will’ one Shaun Tan ………………. at the time?

    I also posted a rather provocative opinion that the whole national EPMU rally thing was little more than a dog-and-pony show to support Andrew Little’s rise to power in the Labour Party (who needs a ‘boss class’ when you can latch onto the real earners, eh? Now that’s what I call an ‘oligarchy’.)
    Turns out I was right about that, too.
    The ‘union movement’ is of course a bit edgy about the 90-day probationary period, but as we have already seen every other country in the OECD bar Denmark has its own version of it. Has the union movement collapsed in France? No. So we can surmise it is the NZ union movement which has the issue. Perhaps because it is so closely intertwined in its funding ‘you scratch-my back’ relationship with any Labour Government it is fortunate enough to be backing at any time, that it really doesn’t need another threat to its fund-raising powers, because it would lose influence over that government. (Hmm – that wasn’t looked at in the EFA, was it? Funny, because the Canadian verson did, I guess that bit just fell down the back of the sofa at the drafting stage). Thus, I guess the divide and rule tactic represented by the 90-day period thing is truly threatening, but largely to the careerists who like to straddle the Labour-Party system to line their own pockets. Therefore I suggest, that suddenly, after nine years of deafening silence under their mates The Labour Party, suddenly the ‘sleeping Giant’ union movement rouses itself to defend ‘The workers’? Give me a break.

    The next point I would like to offer is that if the passing of the legislation is undemocratic, or in contravention of the BoRA, or should be reviewed by Select Committee, I am at liberty to say so and to believe so too. i am also at liberty to ask questions and point out holes in others’ argument swhere I see them. and be corrected. Just like I was free to do so during the EFA fiasco. As were you, Tane. But for some reason which eludes me, appeared very reluctant to do so. But then I’m just a ‘pretendy-lefty’, so it might be churlish to suggest that your own much-vaunted left-wing beliefs were put on the back burner for the sake of you own pay-packet, and out of deference for your EPMU boss’ career-ambitions?
    Just because I largely refuse to comment on the VDS where I am sure you enjoy unlimited opportunity to be abusive to people who do not share your narrow view, doesn’t mean you should abuse the hospitality of a different blog to score petty points. But as a monkey and well-known unwitting object of Tane’s superior debating skills, I do reserve that right for myself.
    With apologies to Mr Pete.

  4. dave Says:

    So your decision to make a select committee submission is based , not on a bill, or on principle or whether you agree or disagree with a bill – but on whether a bill you disagree with is likely to pass or not?

  5. Lee C Says:

    It should be based on whether enough consultation has been undergone – but let’s not forget that select committee (see the EFA) can also be trumped up to be ‘window dressing’ and rubber stamp a bill which any govt is hell-bent on passing. My original offering here did contain a question or two about whether the present legislation had been to select committee already, as in my various readings of this someone had inferred that it had been to select committee already – I just wanted clarification whether that was the case. If it hasn’t then it is an outrageous attack on democracy, etc. As for being an attack on workers’ rights, there is a lot of ‘fire at will’ but little reference to how ‘workers rights’ will be affected when you consider the ways that probationary periods are already in place under the present legislation, and also how ’employers rights’ may be strengthened under it. Even the HRC’s assertion about Select Committee tended to be a general point about how useful they are to slow down the progress to allow consultation – they haven’t made any actual assertions about the degrading of workers rights in the legislation, nor have they shown any interest in the subject re probationary periods(as far as I can see) in the present submissions. So I see the fear that emergency or rapid legislation engenders and share it, but wanted to know whether some of the claims being made were based on fact or on the late realisation that our self and other appointed watch-dogs had been caught napping.

  6. jafapete Says:

    Yes, Lee and Dave, my decision to make a submission is based not merely on whether I feel there is something about the bill that requires a submission, but whether it has any show of being passed. Perhaps unlike you, my time is limited, and there is little point in chasing windmills.

    What your government is doing is an unprecedented abuse of democratic process in modern times, and I doubt whether anybody foresaw this. Certainly, National did not say at the time that it was introduced as a private members bill that, if elected, it would ram the legislation through without allowing anybody to make submissions.

    Tane is 100% right on this one. The impact of this proposal will be felt by workers in what academics call the “secondary labour market”. That is, workers with fewer marketable skills who tend to be concentrated in price-competitive domestic services, and who “enjoy” lower wages and conditions, less job security, more irregular working hours, etc. Think service stations, cleaning contractors, hospitality, retail, etc. These are the workers who have the lowest levels of union membership, and not by choice either. The only survey to ask the question found that those workers who would join a union if they could were concentrated in this sector. So there they are, vulnerable and disadvantaged. And along comes National…

    Believe me, it is no consolation to be responding to you on this issue from a higher moral plane.

  7. Lee C Says:

    No, Tane was 50% right, in the first part the end-game of this type of legislation is to break, not encourage union membership, because it is also part of a covert war against unionism and the Labour Party – I pointed this out in August. (See one of the links in my above diatribe.) One issue I was raising was, if even a monkey could see that, where were the HRC and ‘the left’? As you suggested – too complacent to do anything becasue ‘it could never happen here.’ Just like with the EFA. I’m happy to concede truth where I see it. it’s a shame that Tane can’t be even ‘half-right’ without coming across like a [author deleted] though. I think he wouldn’t last thirty seconds on a ‘real’ shop floor with a potty mouth like that.

    I posted on the rushed legislation today would welcome your thoughts –

    Lee, Your logic escapes me. It’s hard to see how taking away workers’ rights, thereby increasing the “return” to workers of collective organisation, could lead to a decline in union membership, other than through instituting a regime of fear and intimidation in NZ workplaces. The latter would be somewhat at odds with Key’s fine rhetoric about improving NZ’s economic performance by stripping kiwi workers of their protections.

  8. On the Mapp defense at The Standard 2.02 Says:

    […] post Nats hurry to strip workers of rights points out some absurdities of the NACT excuses So, no opportunity to make submissions on these […]

  9. MacDoctor Says:

    What your government is doing is an unprecedented abuse of democratic process in modern times

    Hardly unprecedented, JP. It is almost exactly what Labour did with the EFA and the ETS. Which is precisely why I am NOT in favour of urgency for this bill. The EFA was utterly unworkable and the ETS virtually a complete waste of time. Urgency is for crises or the end of the year when time is short and bills have been through at least one reading and a select committee. The 90-day probation bill is neither urgent nor nearly complete.

    At least you’re consistent MacDoc, and for that you deserve some respect. But I think that this abuse is worse than the processes followed (or not) for the EFA & ETS. Hence unprecedented. Not that I am trying to excuse what happened with the EFA.

  10. Lee C Says:

    Pete what I am saying is that the reasonable response would be a return to collective bargaining, but that the legislation is an attack on that culture, and that the law is part of an ongoing strategy to diminish workers’ rights and therefore the unions. How? by enforcing the ‘choice’ aspect of whether you belong to a union, and eroding the unions’ longer-term ability to have influence over policy-making at the highest levels of government, because, in time, they simply won’t have the economic clout to call the shots – it is possible to hold two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time if you build a chronlolgical time-frame into the equation.
    Tane said: “Lee, the fire at will bill does little if anything to attack the union movement – that will come later. ” – that was the 50% correct to which I was referring and he agrees with me. it appears.

    Lee, it’s been an awful long time since the unions in NZ could “call all the shots” at workplace or political level. In fact, I’m not sure that was ever the case, but it wasn’t the case over the last nine years, and that’s as good as the union movement has had it at the political level probably since the early 1960s. I would point out that under our current system many workers don’t have the choice of whether they can join a union, and would like to. There’s already a lot of unsatisfied demand for unions.

  11. Lee C Says:

    Although on reflection I don’t think he actually knew what he was saying when he said it…

  12. Lee C Says:

    Pete – I’m not referring to ‘calling the shots’ in terms of making positive or beneficial changes to workers’ rights – I think that claim is often eye-candy. I mean in terms of using the union movement to segue potential candidates into power-broking positions within the Labour Party, and as MPs. Nothing wrong with that per se, but, when you consider the economic/financial implications of union support for Labour, in personnel and cash terms, most of which was deliberately overlooked by the recent ‘stop rorts’ EFA, you have to concede that there is a possibility of such a relationship becoming besmirched by self-interest?
    In response to the assertion that ‘it wasn’t the case in the last nine years.’ is it possible to therefore suggest that, the union movement was asleep at the helm? Or was it somehow beaten into silence as champions of the workers? If so, why?
    Was it the dire threat to industrial action from a fascistic right-leaning government?
    Was it dire economic straits which starved unions into submission?
    Was it a dearth of socially progressive minds in cabinet and Academia stifling debate?
    Or was it that the bosses had the legislature sewn up by its own capitalist puppets?
    No. It was none of the above.
    It was because the upper echelons of the union movement became a breeding ground for self-interested political apparatchiks who in reality left ‘the workers’ seccumb to a fall in the OECD ratings, while they lined up to get their own noses into the Labour Party administrative trough. Orwell couldn’t make it up! Which is why they were so keen on the EFA, and so complaisent of the ERA.
    Pop quiz: Who is going to be the next President of the Labour Party?
    I like you Pete.

  13. jafapete Says:

    Gosh, thanks, Lee.
    I’m not sure that certain other right-wing bloggers do right now.

    You articulate some commonly held beliefs in the right-blogosphere, so I will take the time to explain a few points. Yes, on the surface the union movement, and the SFWU in particular, had a lot of influence in government post-1999. And they got most of what they asked for in the 2000 ERA and subsequent amendment in 2004. But the unions — more especially the then CTU leadership –underestimated the potential for re-unionisation in the private sector services in the absence of compulsory membership. (I did too, thinking that union density might rise to 25–30% on a good day, but they were talking 50%. In the end it was 21–22%.) So, although they held their own during a period of record employment growth, the unions did not get the membership necessary to provide real power. In short, many MPs, yes (most of whom proved less effective than average), but real power, no.

    By “self-interest” I assume you mean the interests of the union movement being attended to in return for the largely material support it provided. Recall that the Labour Party was set up by unionists and others as the political wing of the labour movement. For many in the labour movement, participation in the NZLP and working in a union are simply separate parts of working for the interests of working people. So it’s not about “self-interest” of one part of the labour movement or other, but the interests of the labour movement as a whole, in pursuit of the interests of the working people. You may call that “eye-candy”, but it’s an honestly held belief by many.

    If you mean individual “self-interest”, then I’d say that some individuals have done well out of the labour movement, but why shouldn’t they, within reason? There are others who could have done much better for themselves materially, but choose to sacrifice something to work in a union. I was one of those myself, and have nothing but admiration for those I know who continue to make such sacrifices. Bottom line is there’s no corruption like Gov. Blagojevich. Period.

    As for the OECD rankings, that’s an ordinal measure, popularised by one Robert Muldoon, and not hugely useful. It’s not like we are poorer than before. In terms of GDP per capita, NZ improved its position relative to most of the other OECD countries over the last 9 years, including Australia. But we have so much ground to make up, that we lost in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The proposal that this thread is about won’t do that in my view.

    On the next president of the Labour Party, I’m not saying anything. Made enough enemies already, probably.

  14. Lee C Says:

    thanks for your response Pete – i broadly agree with your thoughts. I appreciate the relationship between Labour labour and unions, and appreciate the symbiotic historical relationship. It does sound like I’m sugesting two wrongs make a right or am contradictory in my ideas, but I’ll perhaps end this discussion from my end with one or two thoughts.
    Many of the same people who are know upset about rushed legislation eroding our democratic traditions were silent during the EFA debacle.
    Those same people were conspicuous in their lack of criticism of the way the ERA threw the ‘most vulnerable’ to the wolves for years.
    many who supported the rush to pass the EFA endorsed a shoddily rigged Select Committee process which was designed to facilitate rapid transition of the EFA are now outraged that no Select Committee is being used to impede the progress of this latest law.
    The ERA was hardly the workers’ nirvana the unions would have us believe – some unions used its existence to promote its own agenda to push for collective-bargaining – nought wrong with that, but that is not the sae as protecting the vulnerable, but more about protecting their own manor.
    i’m just saying that the deeply held belief has been perverted by organisations for its own capitalistic ends, so to my mind there are parts of the modern NZ union movement which bears more likeness to McDonalds than to Marx.
    Anyway look at this I’d appreciate your ideas.

  15. barnsleybill Says:

    Good post JP, thought provoking as usual.
    The point that really stuck out for me was the relative unemployment numbers between maori and pakeha
    9.3% for maori and 3.2% for pakeha.
    That clearly demonstrates labour’s complete and utter failure of maori and is the clearest sign yet to explain to the reality deniers why the Maori party have gone with national.

    Yep, BB, that could be part of the explanation; although Helen Clark’s arrogant dismissal of Maori concerns over the F&S legislation surely didn’t help things either. But a couple of points… Unemployment is but one of a number of measures of social and economic well-being, and my understanding is that the position of Maori improved across the board under the Labour-led governments. Notwithstanding the abandonment of the “closing the gaps” rhetoric after Brash’s frantic racist dog-whistling (sorry, couldn’t resist). Also, Maori unemployment is still much lower than it was in 1999. It’s clear that Maori are still amongst the first to suffer when times get tough, underlining the point that I’m always making about the most vulnerable workers suffering the most.

  16. Simon Says:

    The greatest challenge New Zealand faces is teaching the Labour-electorate to work for a living. We’ve got generations of Labour-voters who simply do not believe that they need to produce more than they consume.

    Decent New Zealand can smell the visceral fear of the Left for the new 90 probationary period and we know what causes it; an unwillingness to actually work for a living and receive a decent wage in return.

    Undoing the devastation wrought by the Clark regime in her personal pursuit of a communist revolution requires desperate measures. Now that New Zealand has returned to democracy after nine long and cold winters of discontent, it’s right and proper that the new government pass bills through urgency to undo the harm with the greatest alacrity.

    The 90 day bill is a good start. Other measures to consider should include;

    -Dismantling the organised crime syndicates that revel in the name “Trades Union.”

    -Introducing a universal “work for welfare benefits” scheme.

    -Rescinding universal suffrage, in favour of “only those who contribute to society get to vote in how society is administered.” Taxpayers get a vote, welfare recipients and criminals do not.

    -Make tax optional for anyone earning less than $NZ40,00 per annum at the cost of voting privileges.

    -Rescind residency to any first generation immigrant who has recourse to welfare assistance or commits an offence.

    -Encourage productivity and user-pays by decreasing tax steps rather than increased tax steps. Tax to be set at 80% on the first $NZ40,000 and step down to 10% top tax rate for earnings over $NZ100,000

    -Preclude any member of the Labour or Green Parties from a position in the civil service, to alleviate the threat of communist sabotage.

    -Make membership of the Labour and Green Parties or an organised crime family such as a Trade Union justifiable grounds for dismissal in the private sector.

    -Re-nationalise all of our precious assets gifted away to Maori special interest on the flimsy basis of some entirely imagined injustices from seven generations ago and a lose translation of a version of a document that nobody signed.

    -Introduce corporal and capital punishment for repeat offenders and hard labour into prisons.

    Simon, And to think that I got accused of “trolling” on kiwiblog the other day by a couple of righties who are congenitally incapable of recognising reasoned comment…

  17. ak Says:

    (ay carumba………better move this lass off her moorings pronto, Pete, looks like an asylum seeker’s hopped aboard…)

  18. adamsmith1922 Says:


    Off thread, but best wishes for 2009 and trust you had a good Christmas


  19. jafapete Says:

    Adam, Thanks. Came up to Napa Valley and had Xmas at one of California’s top wineries (friends of the wife’s). Will post on SF and the class struggle soon. Promise!

    Happy New Year to you and to all the readers of this blog, regardless of politics. Peter

  20. adamsmith1922 Says:


    Love to hear about the wine and food, forget politics

  21. haha Says:



    “Came up to Napa Valley and had Xmas at one of California’s top wineries (friends of the wife’s). Will post on SF and the class struggle soon. Promise!”

    speaks volumes

  22. Ferinannnd Says:

    Подойдя к второму обзацу необходимо будет побороть в себе желание его пропустить

  23. Ebooks Resell Rights Says:

    Very interesting post, I think you are sure!

  24. Dannyboy Says:

    Hey there everyone

    New sensational blog for your enjoyment!

    Got to:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: