I want to celebrate the promise from Labour and the Greens that we will get another public holiday to celebrate Matarike – the star cluster that Maori use to mark the new year’s arrival.
At least most workers will be able to celebrate this day with a day off work because the bosses won’t want to pay them time and a half for working it and give them an alternative holiday if it is a usual working day for them.
Late capitalism has fought to turn every minute of every day into a potential source of work time and to eliminate anything special about any particular minute. Work processes have become non-stop in many instances.
It used to be a law in this country that working more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week would entitle you to penal rates. Work on a Saturday got time and a half for the first four hours then double time after that. Any work on a Sunday was at double time.
Once the legal compulsion to pay penal rates for these times was abolished by National in the early 1990s most workers – especially in the private sector – were not able to keep them as part of their employment agreements.
The bosses do everything they can to control every minute you are at work. they try and steal time off you by making all preparation for work, or cleaning up time after work your responsibility.
Bosses use self-employment agreements to ensure they don’t have to pay for any time waiting around if they don’t have work for you.
Zero-hour contracts became the standard in many industries so bosses had maximum flexibility to suit their needs with no obligations.
New technologies are being used to increase the monitoring and policing of our work.
No consideration is given to the fact that night work is simply bad for people’s health. The Maritime Union has blamed the 12-hour night shifts they are forced to work on the wharves as contributing to a recent death.
The promoters of family values celebrated the destruction of the weekend and the possibility of families to spend time together.
Community life, sport, culture and recreational activities become harder and harder to manage.
Many workers manage by simply working more and more hours. For security guards they are paid a minimum wage and are expected to work a 60-hour week to make a living. No penal rates apl;ly until after 60 hours and then they are lucky if it is time and a quarter.
Other workers are kept on contracts with only a bare minimum of hours guaranteed as a way of getting around the 2015 ban on zero-hour contracts. The boss still gets all the flexibility they want and the workers are forced into a docile “yes sir no sir” situation to get extra hours. Favouritism and bullying remain rife as a consequence.
The ban on zero hour contracts followed a Unite Union-led campaign in the fast food industry. The law also required that workers who have to be available for work should get compensated for this. Very few companies do this however and operate in the knowledge that workers will generally take the extra work offered or run the risk of not being offered it in the future.
In recent years the employment court has started to rule that the process of stealing workers time has gone too far.
The sleepover case in 2016 ruled that workers looking after children in a residential home should get at least the minimum wage when sleeping over because they were required to get up and attend to any issues.
In the Smiths City case in 2018 a 15-minute unpaid meeting before the official start time was deemed paid work.
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In December 2018 the court ruled that time spent putting on and taking off protective gear in meat works was work and should be paid.
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Earlier this year Postal Workers won a case that overtime could not be compulsory if no compensation was being made for “availability”.
In a post-covid world we have some workers deemed “essential” still on minimum wages.
We have some workers having to work many extra hours every week to meet the health and other emergencies associated with dealing with the crisis whilst other workers are being laid off in the tens of thousands.
The bosses used to force all workers, including children, to work sixty or more hours a week. They were forced to stop a century ago with the mass campaigns for an 8-hour day and forty-hour week. Penal rates were introduced to enforce this change. Bosses were being penalised for forcing workers to do more hours.
Despite the massive growth in the productivity of labour we have actually gone backwards in terms of real pay and control of hours.
We have too many workers working too few hours for too little pay whilst others are forced to work too many hours.
In the post covid world working people need to share the work that is available without losing their ability to make a living. One good way to start would be a four day 32-hour week with a minimum wage of $25 an hour. That would equal a five day 40-hour week at $20 an hour.