Forget the 1970s, Labour’s Fair Pay Agreements will take New Zealand back to the 1890s!

By   /   June 7, 2018  /   32 Comments

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“FAIR PAY AGREEMENTS” (FPA) are the final proof that Labour is evolving backwards into the Liberal Party. Predictably, National’s ignorance of its own country’s history has rendered it incapable of placing this latest example of Labour milksoppery into its proper context.

“FAIR PAY AGREEMENTS” (FPA) are the final proof that Labour is evolving backwards into the Liberal Party. Predictably, National’s ignorance of its own country’s history has rendered it incapable of placing this latest example of Labour milksoppery into its proper context. Scott Simpson can witter-on all he likes about Jim Bolger (of whom more later) taking New Zealand back to the 1970s. A much more accurate historical invocation would be the 1890s. Or, if we’re being precise, 1894. That was the year the Liberal Government of Richard John Seddon passed the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act (ICAA) – the true inspiration for Iain Lees-Galloway’s FPAs.

The ICAA empowered the state to bring employers and workers together for the purpose of establishing minimum rates-of-pay and working conditions across whole industries and occupations. If these could not be arrived at by negotiation, then binding arbitration was available from a special Arbitration Court. Crucially, unions and employer associations who submitted their disputes to the Court were forbidden from engaging in strikes or lockouts. These “awards” of the Arbitration Court spelled out the minimum standards workers could expect and prevented the employers’ competitors from initiating a ‘race to the bottom’ on wages and conditions.

The parallels with Labour’s proposed FPAs are obvious. What has yet to be established, however, is whether or not the advisory group headed by Bolger will incorporate a twenty-first century equivalent of the Arbitration Court into the new FPA machinery. Without such a mechanism, the negotiation of anything resembling a useful FPA will be next-to-impossible. Strikes and lockouts have already been ruled out of the process, so in the absence of a binding arbitration mechanism, negotiations between employers and unions could be prolonged indefinitely. Or, at the very least, until the National Party is re-elected and the legislation enabling FPAs repealed.

This will be the true test of whether Bolger’s ‘road to Damascus’ conversion: from hard-line anti-union promoter of the Employment Contract’s Act, to conscience-stricken repudiator of neoliberalism and all its works; is genuine. With National’s workplace relations spokesperson, Scott Simpson, on record as promising to repeal all FPA-related legislation, any hopes Labour may have entertained of Bolger inspiring an outbreak of constructive bi-partisanship have already been dashed.

The best the Left can hope for now is that the one-time master-poacher of worker’s rights will, over the course of the coming months, transform himself into the incorruptible game-keeper of their interests.

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  1. XRAY says:

    Something must change with labour laws or this country is going to in essence cease to function properly if it not there in part already.

    Having it all the markets way, with helpful legislation to that end means people cannot earn enough to survive.

    Want proof, look no further than Stephen Joyce’s Public Transport Operating Model, introduced in 2013. Its goals are contained here

    The gaols are in other words a self-funding profit-driven model for private investors to get rich, in an environment where any profit is counterproductive for the public who fund it, but at the same time tamed by competition providing services at the cheapest rate.

    What we have in 2018 is private bus companies tendering for contracts and the cheapest wins. But to be the cheapest something has to give and it is drivers wages and conditions and they are verging on useless. And I would hate to think what is going on behind the scenes maintenance wise.

    Long story short, drivers can’t survive on their shitty wages and crap conditions of split shifts, (picture commuting to work twice a day, that is 4 times a day to and fro). And as each tender passes, the drivers get squeezed a little more. The wage situation is now so untenable that some companies are pleading for the government to allow for immigrant drivers to be brought it. They are far more exploitable you see!

    So in some parts of economy the race to the bottom is nearing the back straight. And it is a mess and National can’t see it.

  2. LOLBAGZ says:

    Chris we are certainly on the same page with this, almost as if we had the same notes, bizarre. It is hard to see any leverage when strikes are ruled out and union membership is low anyway. Too sad.

    A person I will describe here only as a High Elf once told me that, even with all this technology, we are headed towards a “New Dark Age”, this century. At the time that made little sense to me but now I see the full medieval horror of the situation coming into view with some momentum. She was absolutely correct we are traveling back in time towards a peasants serfs and lords era.

    “Gamekeepers” indeed, that is pitch black.

    • Castro says:

      You and your High Elf are 1000% correct there. Stockpole food and weapons and get ready to mete out some street justice to the Haves 😉

  3. Mike the Lefty says:

    Jim Bolger – I don’t trust the bugger.
    Look at how things have “progressed” in Kiwibank and KiwiRail under his leadership.
    Kiwibank branches and services closing down everywhere. KiwiRail phasing out electric locos in favour of diesel ones.
    Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing, no matter how much he bleats.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      It takes a certain amount of differing quality’s to rise to the top position , one of those quality’s being intelligence.

      Jim Bolger gave full and hearty support to Ruth Richardson’s Employment Contracts Act 1991 ,- and knew precisely the sort of negative impact it would have on literally tens of thousands of ordinary New Zealand workers lives and the deliberate lowering of their standard of living.

      There are now around 650, 000 ex pat New Zealanders who call Australia home as a direct result of the gutting of wages , trashing of Unions , – and the permanent poverty that ensued.

      A more decent individual would have stopped Ruth Richardson and her Mont Pelerin Society backed policy’s dead in her tracks.

      Bolger did not.

      Instead? , – he endorsed every last bit of it.

      Jim Bolger knew EXACTLY what effect it would have on New Zealanders and the divisive and impoverishing effects that would come for literally decades. No serious individual can ever suggest that the crocodile tears that he cry’s now , – 27 years after the fact , – means that he is repentant after what he and his Finance Minister and his political party did to the people of this country.

      It doesn’t take nearly thirty years to witness the destruction caused by ones decisions and come to the conclusion it was morally wrong or unethical as Prime Minister .

      Not for any normal ‘ intelligent’ person , – which then begs the question ,… is he thick ? , – or has he and his fellow neo liberal travelers had almost 30 years to enjoy their ill gotten wealth which they stole from the New Zealand public and reinvest it so as not to leave any paper/electronic footprints , – or are they just relying on an entirely new generation having grown up in poverty who have no memory of the crimes they committed ?

      So which is it?

      New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?

      • mosa says:

        I remember as if it was yesterday when Birch and Bolger were out selling the ECA as if it was going to be the best thing since sliced bread and kiwis would be able to negotiate their own individual agreements and be better off than having the union do it for them.
        No more strikes or union intimidation , no more union extortion of your pay with membership fees.

        Just corporate extortion instead.

        But with huge unemployment at the time if you wanted the job there was no negotiation , no discussion about pay or your rights and that the expectation was your hours would be determined by the needs of the business and that ” overtime ” would no longer be acknowledged as you keep going as long as it takes to get the job done.
        The move towards the ” salary ” meant that you were available to work without set hours per week and in most cases you would work longer for less once your 50 hour plus work week was completed.

        The agreement was already written without any input from the victim and if you wanted the job you signed on the dotted line.
        No negotiation or representation and if you don’t like it there are plenty more desperate to work longer for a hell of a lot less.

        The fact is that the ECA exceeded all expectations and has bought us to where we are today ……… financially enslaved population and that is exactly where the National party thinks we deserve to stay.

        The final point here is this Australia still has a viable , strong union movement that will not tolerate the kind of abuse meted out in this country and is still a major player in their labour relations policy and it shows with the Australians who are still better protected, better paid and have strength to protect their rights and conditions.

    • MatisyahuNZ says:

      1) Kiwibank closing branches has more to do with the fact that people are getting their banking done via the internet (mobile and on a computer) along with self service facilities such as the ‘smart ATM’s’ that allow real time deposits of money into bank accounts (even if you only have the account number). My greater concern is the money they wasted on SAP given that Oracle Flex Cube already has success under its belt in the form of the new backend for Co-op Money NZ (the backend computing for credit unions) given it provides a turn key solution out of the box vs SAP which has a notorious reputation for cost blowouts.

      2) The move to diesel was a decision because the National government chose not to fund the expansion of the electrification if the main trunk line along with a lack of foresight to standardise the country on 25Kv when there urban rail upgrades were taking place in Auckland and Wellington. End of the day Kiwi Rail have to operate within the commercial model (due to the way it has been setup and its relationship with the government) and if the we the people want things to change at Kiwi Rail then it is up to the government of the day to make the necessary funds available. The people to blame for the lack of investment into rail is the National government – to blame Bolger is to ignore the source of the problem.

  4. Observer Tokoroa says:

    Hi Chris – You are Amazing.

    Your Headline says “Labour is evolving backwards “. How Profound .

    You also say ” you have the final proof ” . Zeus no less

    Jim Bolger is going to take a left Eye off each Labour Person. Also take a bloody Left Leg off each Labour Person. And the Right Testical. For no Labour Person shall have the Right to anything of the Right.

    Jacinda said you put her up to this because she does not have even a tiny bit of your trash in her mind. She is just a simple Girl who makes you look an utter Fool.

    You are Amazing Chris

  5. Denny Paoa says:

    Bolger is a ‘space-holder”. He’ll chew up the clock for as long as he can, then dish up some lukewarm recommendations from the bunch of lites in the panel, John from etu is outnumbered & out flanked by novices and the business community and fuck’n academics & the ctu.

    I think the FOL had sharper teeth to be honest if we’re to go back to the 70’s! More fun too!

    • Geoff Lye says:

      It was the leadership of the FOL that sold us out over the 1992 employment contracts act and it was the ctu that tried to kill it but didn’t have the numbers.

  6. esoteric pineapples says:

    Labour can’t expect National to support it in anything – National has decided to follow the route of the Republican Party in the United States, and this may not be a coincidence

  7. Mjolnir says:

    Having Jim Bolger lead Labour’s fair pay commission was a stroke of genius. The Nats can’t bitch about fair pay when a firmer National prime minister is leading the charge. Bolger has lamented that the “reforms” of the 90s lef to lower wages. His road to Damascus conversion shouldn’t be essily dismissed. He understands how dismally the neo-liberal experiment has failed us as a country.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      I wish I had your forbearance.

      But when I look back at all the self justifying greed ,corruption and outright bald faced lies that were spread to justify the wealth grab of the NZ public, I have zero tolerance.

      I’d just as soon see the culprits in the lock up for what they did.

      And that’s not just being bloody-minded or vindictive , – that’s just simple justice being served and a country having the gumption / intestinal fortitude to do whats right.

      Look at Iceland.

      • Mind you, WK, I get what Mjolnir is getting at.

        In my teens and 20s I was horribly right-wing in my views. I could easily have passed for a Young Nat. It was a slow transformation process, motivated by my environmental concerns and then accelerated after the 1973 coup in Chile ousted a democratically elected socialist government.

        That was my Road to Damascus moment.

        I heard Jim Bolger being interviewed by Guyon Espiner on ‘The Ninth Floor’. If the man was pulling a fast one, he deserves an Oscar for an Award-winning performance.

        Perhaps he has a conscience that has finally decided, “No more”.

        Or maybe I’m a sucker…

        Fingers crossed, eh?

        • Nobody says:

          Interesting Frank, yes, we’re all on a journey.

          Even those with radical politics like myself must admit that life in the 70’s was constrained, and the prospects for many were limited, even if jobs were more plentiful. Endless strikes and constant unrest was extremely counter-productive. Most people were heartily sick of it in the end, even those of us who were actually engaged in it at the time.

          We had power, but no common sense. Now we have no power, no cents, and little sense of what to do next. One thing is for certain however; we need a new form of Socialism, one that learns from history, and practices sustainable, viable socialist economics.

          Capitalism must be replaced, by Workers acquiring the means of production legitimately. We tried industrial militancy and it failed. We tried State Capitalism, and that too failed. The only thing we haven’t tried is Karl Marx’ prescription, handing ownership of the Means of Production over to the people who actually run society and the economy day to day; the Working Class. Genuine progress means co-operatives and public ownership, not more Back to the Future regulation, new IR Courts and more bloated bureaucracy.

          Think about it… if Workers owned the businesses they were employed in, honestly, would there be any need for the government to tell them to pay themselves more and treat themselves better?

          • WILD KATIPO says:

            … ‘ Think about it… if Workers owned the businesses they were employed in, honestly, would there be any need for the government to tell them to pay themselves more and treat themselves better? ‘…

            That sort of model has been tried in Japan and Scandinavia with some success. However those at the top of the food chain will never truly acquiesce to that way of thinking.

            It is selfish human nature that is the culprit.

            That said , a strong advocacy via Trade Unions is always going to be required to stand up against abuse of workers. Because as sure as God made little green apples a right wing govt sure as hell wont.

            This is why Australia still has good wages, good conditions and we dont.

          • David Stone says:

            @ Nobody in particular
            There’s nothing to prevent a group of workers forming a co-op and starting up/ running a company themselves. Or taking over a company already in existence with a collective purchasing arrangement. Some companies encourage worker buy-in to share ownership and assist.
            It doesn’t often happen. Why not ?
            Someone has to stick their neck out and take a risk and responsibility, and back their own ideas and ability. Decision making is difficult in a co-op and the required mechanism would need a lot of thought . You could imagine it working in a totally stable economic environment but there are a lot of other decisions to be made than just how much to pay the workers.
            The bottom line is though that the change to worker control does not require a revolution or a law. It requires a group of workers to get on with it and show how it’s done.

        • WILD KATIPO says:

          Sorry Frank and with all due respects I was born into a working class family ( who on one side were very rich prior to the Great Depression ) ,… and also had a Salvation Army background on my mothers side…

          Couple that with just good old Kiwi egalitarian thinking when I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s and that made for a formula that ‘ Jack was as good as his master’.

          The bulldozer driver or ditch digger was as good as the CEO.

          I attribute that to all those factors.

          And to see what those bastards did to this country galls me and is an absolute and total offense. And the shit attitudes it bred. And I will never til the day I die understand how some bastard can go through life thinking he/she is somehow a cut above all the rest and are entitled to rob , lie , cheat and steal just because they hold those attitudes.

          And I will NEVER , EVER buy the line that scumbags like Bolger didn’t know what they were doing. EVER.

          He knew alright.

          Anyone with an inch of conscience or modicum of intelligence would.

          There is no excuse.

          And if Bolger DOES advocate for workers, well and good. But there is STILL unfinished business that he has to answer to for justice to be served.

          If its good enough to lock away Arthur Allan Thomas or Teina Pora and draw out any prospect of compensation for totally ruining their lives its good enough to charge those responsible for destroying our way of life as a collective who actually WERE guilty.

          Bolger better make good, is all I can say.

    • OCON says:

      I disagree MJOLNER.

      Respect for Bolger in the National Party is at a pretty low level now and his position as chair or what ever of this ‘working group’ will have little influence on the National party. He doesn’t have that ‘elder statesman’ influence in the party now.

      The Nats will oppose any proposals from Bolger’s working group buddies that recommends a return to collective agreements across sectors; a return to any form of compulsory unionism and any increase in union power.

      Bolger will simply be ignored and marginalised in the process by the Nats.

      Labour has appointed a figure head; one that will bring them little joy. Unless of course they have unwittingly appointed a wooden horse; in which case they really will be in the shit with their IR reforms.

  8. Marc says:

    The FPAs may turn out a shambles of sorts.

    Employers like unions may in future make totally extreme and unreasonable claims, knowing that somewhere in between the demands of the two parties an Arbitration Court or Tribunal of sorts will force a settlement in the middle.

    The negotiating parties will factor in the likely ending of their negotiations with exactly such a body of arbitrators.

    The only real improvement may be that low incomes will be lifted to meet at least the minimum wage plus a little above that, as business operators and employers will claim, if anything more is settled for, they will go out of business and/or lay off workers.

    The law we have now is already forcing agreements between workers and employers to be very mediocre, and individual contracts leave many out, rather vulnerable, unless the workers have special, high qualifications and experience that are in high need.

    So a moderate improvement, perhaps, but unions will have their hands tied, same as employers. Nevertheless, the ones in charge of the money and capital that is, they will have the stronger power in the end, as they can pressure also the arbitrators to be more ‘considerate’.

    Thanks to Chris for this good historic reflection and comparison.

  9. Castro says:

    We are actually headed a few decades further back.. that light at the end of the tunnel is the NZ Wars Ii freight train coming your way. This is simply a ploy by the right wing Labour Party to prevent key workers from striking. Word.

  10. dave brown says:

    Yes Labour is now a Liberal Party because it has abandoned its working class base and seems to be wanting to return to the principle of compulsory arbitration (IC&A Act) where the state tries to conciliates the class war and lock up strikers who refuse. Harry Holland called the IC&A Act ‘labor’s leg-iron’.

    And so it proved to be. Because wage increases did not happen unless the bosses could afford them. By 1908 many unions left the Arbitration Court and the Red Federation of unions was born. The naked class war that then broke out was only stopped by the state forces, police and army, smashing strikes and the general strike of 1913.

    If the Government goes down this road then they are certainly asking for another Red Fed. Todays conditions are very different from 100 years ago but capitalism is now on its last legs. If Labour introduces Compulsory Arbitration then it could be met by wildcat strikes and pickets which will be met with state force under 1930s style emergency regulations applied to the 1951 Lockout.

    So game on.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      … ‘ The naked class war that then broke out was only stopped by the state forces, police and army, smashing strikes and the general strike of 1913 ‘ …

      I take my car to a mechanics who has large actual black and white photos of Massey’s cossacks assembling at downtown Auckland , Queen St.

      You can tell who they are because you can see the meter long manuka batons they are holding on horseback. Further up Queens St, … you can see the strikers in assembling in rank. The fact is that this country has always been led by its financial oligarchs and political party’s listen to them first.

      And they are prepared to use violence if needs be.

      That said, realistic wage increases are LONG OVERDUE.

      You can only keep screwing people down for so long before the worm turns and your day of reckoning comes. And this country has a massively long way to go to restore what should have been the workers rights all along.

      Its called taking back whats been stolen from you.

  11. Louis says:

    How can you make such assumptions when you dont even know the recommendations the group may come out with?

  12. David Stone says:

    The fundamental problem is neoliberal globalisation. If companies can shift their operation to low wage countries, or have to compete with multinationals that already operate in low wage countries, workers have nothing to bargain with. All they can do is push their jobs across to China.
    D J S

  13. Observer Tokoroa says:

    The old Scots Unions

    I think we have moved on from pretty committed Scotsmen holding the Nation to ransom fora penny worth of nothing.

    The were good men.

    But Workers now must go to the table as grownups. With lawyers, and Media pointing to the issues. The right of men and women to Fair Pay and Conditions.

    Workers must ask each Corporation whether they support Fairness, Justice and Honesty. With specific Rights of men and Women to Fair pay and Conditions.

    If a Corporation does not support those specifics, then the Corporation should be taken to the High Court.

  14. AWSM says:

    […] Daily Blog has likened Labour’s “Fair Pay Agreements” (FPA) to the 1894 passing of the Industrial […]

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