Semi-hysterical bosses show government is on the right track


The semi-hysterical response from employers to the Labour government’s mild (Oh so mild!) plans to reform Labour relations show the government is on the right track.

New Zealand is a low-wage economy after the crushing of unions in 1991 through the Employment Contracts Act and that’s the way the bosses love it.

And they are fighting to keep it that way.

They couldn’t care less about workers struggling on low wages and insecure work. In fact they like it like that. They want workers in a permanently weak position.

They love the power it gives them and the profits it brings. They will always pay the lowest wages they can get away with rather than the most they can afford.

Throughout history bosses have always acted from naked self-interest.

They are doing it today with their newspaper adverts and small armies of PR staff spinning this issue for all it’s worth.

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Labour’s proposal for setting minimum wage rates across industry sectors is a small sensible step to enable wages to emerge from the death trap they are in.

The government’s policy is saying that businesses can compete with each other in the so called “free market” in numerous ways – advertising, price of services, efficiency of delivery, colour of their vehicles etc etc – but NOT on workers’ wages.

When I worked for Unite Union as an organiser I would get the same argument again and again from employers in industries like security, English language teaching and call centres.  We can’t pay workers more because our costs will increase and we will lose contacts and your members will be out of a job”. A smug, self-satisfied position.

With the government’s policy this argument falls over. If all companies employing security guards for example are required to pay a higher minimum wage then all companies are on the same footing. Instead of a race to the bottom where companies offer lower contract prices to undercut wages in another company, all companies will be required to contract at very similar, and higher labour costs.

Let’s hope Labour sticks to its guns on this one. It’s backed down so many times already when questioned or criticised by well-heeled lobby groups that it’s hard to be confident they will keep their spine on this one. But they have to keep their nerve.

The louder the bosses squeal – the more worthwhile the reforms.


  1. Ageed John,

    The bosse’s are tyrants now as they are with holding the same rights given them when they were just workers.

    They must relent and give workers their long fought rights and desist from acting like nazis at the helm.

    Bosses must remember the saying; “the games people play” & “walk a mile in my shoes” to get another taste of reality again.

    Singer-songwriter Joe South, who performed hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s such as “Games People Play” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and also penned songs including “Down in the Boondocks”.

  2. well said John, the employers have totally had things their way since the late 80s really, and embedded structurally since 1991, productivity and wage rises parted company sharply then

    the current govt is mild indeed, but there is some “elbow room” it seems, and working class struggle has elevated somewhat, but will the class analysis of UNITE and First spread beyond into the more ‘milquetoast’ unions like PSA and ETU? lets bloody hope so!

  3. The planned labour reforms have labour policy since the 2011 election bosses have had plenty of warning there bullshit that will lose contract well good workers wages have been the bargaing chips for every service contract if these half pie companies go bust we all better off in the long run the race to the bottom is a place we don’t want to be.

    • Yes and its the usual hypocritical neo liberal stance… ‘if a business cannot compete , then it needs to fail to make way for those that can succeed’,…

      And yet what we saw during the GFC was massive , industrial scale corporate welfare.

      The neo liberal is inherently a hypocrite.

      We must never lose sight of that plain and basic fact.

      They are never to be listened to , and everything they DO SAY is to be immediately back translated into the opposite for their under-girding motives to then be established. The neo liberal never states anything that is without duplicity and deception. And it is ALWAYS at the expense of others and it is ALWAYS for their personal financial gain and social status.

      When people realize that , – then they know just who they are now dealing with , and can then make wise choices to avoid the lies the neo liberal speaks.

      Such was the Employment Contracts Act 1991 …


      Ken Douglas, then president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, recalled in the 1996 documentary Revolution:

      … ” The Employment Contracts Act was deliberately intended to individualise the employment relationship. It was a natural outcome of the ideological propaganda of rugged individualism, of self-interest and greed and the appeal to individuals that you could find better for you by climbing over the tops of your colleagues, your mates, and so on. Ruth Richardson was very clear, very blunt, very honest about its purpose. It was to achieve a dramatic lowering of wages, very, very quickly ” …


      Ruthanasia – Wikipedia

      Defeat the Bill! The struggle against the Employment Contracts Bill, 1991…/defeat-the-bill-the-struggle-against-the-employment-contracts-bill…

  4. … ” The government’s policy is saying that businesses can compete with each other in the so called “free market” in numerous ways – advertising, price of services, efficiency of delivery, colour of their vehicles etc etc – but NOT on workers’ wages ” …


    I like this ^^^ because it goes right to the heart of the issue.


    … ” The government’s policy is saying that businesses can compete with each other in the so called “free market” in numerous ways – advertising, price of services, efficiency of delivery, colour of their vehicles etc etc – but NOT on workers’ wages ” …


    I like this ^^^ because for too long the treacherous neo liberals have since 1984 been ripping people off in both wages and the Common’s wealth .


    … ” The government’s policy is saying that businesses can compete with each other in the so called “free market” in numerous ways – advertising, price of services, efficiency of delivery, colour of their vehicles etc etc – but NOT on workers’ wages ” …


    I like this ^^^ because it concurs with THIS :

    New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?

    Thank you , John Minto for being such a tireless champion of those without a voice. I am especially impressed with the fact you had to do with the Unite Union. I was a security guard. I worked for the lowest of wages with a notorious Auckland security firm who had a policy of an instant sacking if one joined a Union.

    And they are still in operation and employing kids from poor country’s as cheap labour who not only can barely speak English but cant even grow facial hair.

    Setting them up for some serious and threatening situations.

    I’ve been there , and seen grown adults with family’s being shafted and threatened and belittled – esp encouraged under the John Key government.

    I am also 55 years of age and have seen this country degrade itself regards peoples living standards and economic well being – particularly workers – over the last 34 years of neo liberalism. And the loathing I feel towards those so inclined to inflicting this ideology and its negative consequences towards those least able to buffer against it is difficult to describe.

    I guess , being in security ,… I just have a real problem with bully’s.

    White collar bully’s.

    I can only say , … that when I grew up as a child , I never imagined such odious types were present in our society that would happily kick out family’s into the street for the sake of their personal gain. I have never understood that mentality.

    And I never will.

      • When the going got tough, businesses could shoulder tap Nat politicians to squeeze more out of the workers, thereby having no impetus to lift their game and keep up with the ever changing markets – a lose/lose situation in the long run.

  5. The evidence that neo-liberalism has failed is fairly clear except for the most recalcitrant adherents of that particular brand of ideology.

    Even former PM, Jim Bolger, finally had to accept the reality last year;

    Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so.

    But to hear it from a former National Prime Minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well that’s pretty interesting.

    “They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over.

    He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change.”


    Compare New Zealand workers to their Australian counterparts where wages are higher, and unions are stronger, and the evidence becomes hard to dismiss: neo-liberalism has failed to “deliver the promised goods”.

    Time to sort out this mess.

    • Australia has had ‘Fair Pay Agreements’ during both Labour and conservative governments for many years now. It’s one very significant reason why wages are at least 30% higher in Oz than in NZ.

      Also, the first $18,200 of everyone’s salary is tax free. That makes it considerably easier for those on lower wages to get by. Mind you the top tax rate in Australia is 37c/$1 from $80K to $180K and $45c/$1 for income over $180K. New Zealand’s top income tax rate is a flat rate of 33c for all income over $70K (reduced by National from 37c/$1 when they raised GST to 15%).

  6. The likes of the Employers Federation and Federated Farmers do not represent all employers, they mainly represent the largest corporations that employ people in Aotearoa, and their PR is mainly written by spindoctors contracted by those corporations. I know plenty of people who run small businesses, and unlike corporate employers, they tend to actually know their employees as colleagues, not just numbers in an HR database. They pay a living wage, and are happy to do so. They provide the best working conditions they can, because they know that happy, secure workers do better work.

    I would love to see new organizations formed that can speak publicly on behalf of these ethical employers and farmers, and challenge the anti-worker corporate PR of the Employers Federation. Maybe the organizations that represent organic farmers, biological farmers etc could speak out against the corporate FUD churned out by Federated Farmers?

    These organizations (and many others) are currently limited from speaking out in the public interest by the new rules, made by the NatACTs, that only “charitable” not-for-profit organizations can have tax-free status, and they risk losing it if they are seen to be engaged in “activism” rather than “charity”. The NatACTs justified these rules as part of a supposed crack-down on the misuse of trusts to facilitate international tax-dodging, but the real purpose was to prevent civil society speaking out against anti-social and anti-environmental policies. These rules violate the human rights of these organizations’ members and supporters, to exercise their freedom of speech collectively as well as just individually, and the new government needs to fix this urgently. Otherwise the only community organizations that can afford to participate in public policy debate are those who can afford to pay tax, and guess which ones those are?

    • There’s some pretty balanced points in there and yes there are many small employers who are excellent. But I think we know this , articles like this are mainly aimed at the big boys, – the very same ones who have deep pockets and can lobby and donate to political party’s.

      They are the culprits and they know it.

      I like the idea of giving a voice to ethical employers who really do try and ensure a decent wage and a contented workforce,.. these need a forum,… it would be good to have an employer of the month on The Daily Blog,… ones who by the very act of being nominated can be an example and model of how a good business can be run … and at the same time cast light on the shadows created by the rorters and the takers and the users.

  7. Frank Macskasy, if only that admission had came from any, any one of Labour. Half Irish and half wanting to be our first president, Bolger. He is a sly egotist like many in his field. I’m glad of his giant admissions — they strengthen NZ.

  8. The subverting of unions and employees goes further, big corporates have some union workers being paid backhanders to prevent employees joining the union and acting treasonously toward their union.

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