The Government’s new employment law is timid at best, and really, really timid at worst.
All we are looking at here is a roll back of the worst excesses of National’s hatred of Unions. Mike Treen notes the roll backs…
• Restoration of statutory rest and meal breaks.
• Reinstatement will be restored as the primary remedy to unfair dismissal.
• Further protections for employees in the “vulnerable industries”
• Restoration of the duty to conclude bargaining unless there is a good reason not to.
• Removal of the MECA opt out where employers can refuse to bargain for a multi-employer collective agreement.
• Restoration of the 30-day rule where for the first 30 days new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement.
• Repeal of partial strike pay deductions where employers can garnish wages for low-level industrial action. Employers have deducted pay for actions such as wearing t-shirts instead of uniforms.
• Restoration of union access without prior employer consent.
…the most important of these repeals is forcing bosses to stay at etc negotiating table. The new reforms the new Government are suggesting aren’t that huge…
• A requirement to include pay rates in collective agreements. This is based on recent case law. Pay rates may include pay ranges or methods of calculation.
• A requirement for employers to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers (for example in collective bargaining)
• A requirement for employers to pass on information about unions in the workplace to prospective employees along with a form for the employee to indicate whether they want to be a member.
• Greater protections against discrimination for union members.
…the right to fire law won’t be aimed at small business (who employ most of the people in this country) and the new reforms will make incremental change.
I think we are well passed incremental change.
I believe that no matter your role in society, be it doctor, dentist, nurse, rubbish collector, stay at home parent, beneficiary, prisoner, accountant, farmer, pensioner, bus driver, tow truck driver, taxi driver, politician, labourer, what ever it is, you are important. The fabric of society and community is woven together by everyone and everyone deserves a fair share of the harvest. If the rubbish collector stops the cities shut down in a month, if Doctors refuse to work people die, if lawyers weren’t around we wouldn’t know how much we hated lawyers, everyone has a role to play. We counter a status driven self absorbed culture by demanding workers get that dignity with progressive conditions. If we are serious about a Living Wage, tackling poverty in a genuine manner and ending welfare and beneficiary ‘dependancy’ we should fight for a worker levy and open Union membership.
I think every worker entering a new job should automatically be enrolled with the Union representing their sector. This open membership would cost a levy equivalent to two weeks union membership and workers could either chose to remain as members or if they don’t want to be a member for whatever reason, they can contact the Union and remove their membership.
They would still pay the levy. That is the cost of the standards and work safety conditions the Union has already negotiated prior to that worker entering the job, and as such is the price for having safe work environments with beneficial conditions.
Too many NZers are not coming home from work because they have been killed on the job. Pike River was a horror story and the Forestry sector continues to kill. The Labour Party in NZ birthed from the appalling work conditions in the Blackball Mine strike of 1908 because it’s always been work conditions that have driven unionism.
It is every working persons right to collectively bargain. The power structures of the boss enable them to constantly grind down labour costs leaving dead hard jobs with no conditions beyond the minimum. I say screw that. Life can be hard and barren enough without adding wage slavery to it. Open Unionism and a worker levy as I describe it here would generate a large increase of resource to the Unions and the automatic enrolment would immediately strengthen Union bargaining power. This real muscle will force poverty down by demanding better pay and strengthen worker rights.
What thew new Government have suggested here is as meaningless as their carbon neutral by 2030 policy but not nearly as flawed as their counter productive $50 a week lift in student allowances which have been fleeced by greedy landlords.
Unions must demand more, the right to strike, a worker levy and open Union membership are ideas they need to build and push if the pathetic union membership rates are ever to be expanded and real inequality challenged.