New Zealand Workers Set To Face More Attacks
The National Government recently announced a series of new attacks on workers across New Zealand. The raft of proposed changes to the anti-worker Employment Relations Act (ERA, brought in by the previous Labour Government in 2000) and the Holidays Act will serve to further cut job security, wages and conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers in both the public and private sectors.
What are the changes?
Perhaps the biggest change is the expansion of the 90 day fire at will scheme. Under this, any worker can be fired within the first 90 days of employment without any way to legally challenge this. When originally introduced following the 2008 election, this only applied to workers in workplaces with 19 or fewer employees (around 1/3 of the total workforce) however the proposed expansion would see it cover all workplaces. Since it was brought in, approximately 22% of workers hired under the scheme have been fired within 90 days, many given neither a reason nor a warning of what was about to occur, leaving them financially screwed.
A number of changes have also been proposed to the personal grievance process and the way the Employment Relations Authority works. All these changes make it harder for workers to challenge harassment, unjust firings and other problems and while making it easier for the bosses to get their way in a system that is already slanted in their favour.
We will also be pressured into working more often. The time honoured tradition of pulling a sickie is under attack (see elsewhere in this issue of Solidarity for details). Meanwhile, the 4th week of annual leave will soon be able to be exchanged (for cash), as will public holidays (for other days). National is declaring that both of these exchanges must be initiated by the employee, but in reality many workers will no doubt be pressured by their bosses into making them, especially those workers in the first 90 days of their contracts who are in constant fear of being fired! This all adds up to more work for an already overworked population.
Workers who want to join a trade union may find it much harder if the proposed changes go through. Unions will require permission from the employer before they can set foot on the property, meaning it will be especially difficult for unions to get onto sites where they don’t already have members. Additionally, companies will be able to communicate directly with workers during collective bargaining meaning yellow unions (unions run by the company) may become more common, with the associated drop in wages and conditions.
Separate from this lot of law changes but also coming up soon is a private members bill from National MP Tau Henare, which would place further restrictions on strike activity. The bill, which would force unions to hold secret ballots for all strike activity, would give bosses another avenue with which to have strikes declared illegal, at a time when workers are already heavily restricted in their choice of industrial activity by the ERA.
What can we do?
* Talk to your workmates: Build a culture in your workplace where you all support each other when there’s an issue, even if it only effects one or two people. Collectivise problems – it’s much harder for the boss to ignore a larger number of workers.
* Take industrial action where possible: Work to rules, go slows, taking lunch breaks at the same time, strike activity and more. As workers we produce the wealth that lines our bosses pockets – by threatening that profit we can force bosses to give into our demands. When we do engage in industrial activity, make sure it is controlled by us, not by trade unions. While unions can sometimes be useful (for legal protection, resources etc), industrial activity is our weapon, not theirs, and should be controlled by us without interference.
* Support other workers’ struggles: We’re all in this together, and one strong workplace won’t be enough. If you hear of another workplace that’s going out on strike, and you can make the picket line, go and stand with them. If you can’t, support them in other ways - there may be a strike fund you can donate to, or even just go in when they’re not striking and let the workers know that you support them.
* Don’t rely on the trade unions or the Labour Party: The response of the Council of Trade Unions (the umbrella body for NZ unions) to these latest attacks has been pitiful. They have announced they will distribute 20,000 copies of a “Fairness at Work” leaflet – not even enough to reach 10% of their affiliate unions’ membership, let alone the millions of ununionised workers. The Labour Party introduced the anti-worker ERA in its last term in power and has shown time and time again that it is no friend to the working class. In opposition it may encourage members to attend protests, but in Government it’ll just be more of the same.
* This is our fight: These attacks impact on all of us who are forced to work to survive. We, the working class, must stand together and fight in our workplaces to not only protect what little we have, but to create a better future for us all. Separate we will fall, but together we have a chance to win.
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Aotearoa / Pacific Islands | Workplace struggles | News Report | en
Wed 02 Dec, 06:44
Solidarity #13 - October 2010 10:05 Thu 07 Oct 0 comments
The 13th issue of Solidarity, free newssheet of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement. Visit the AWSM website to download a .pdf copy or read the articles online - http://awsm.org.nz/?p=467
This will be the last issue for 2010, Solidarity will resume publication in early 2011. News and analysis will continue to be posted on the AWSM website until then.
* Amongst The Rubble
* A Mini Strike Wave?
* Teacher’s Strike
* Direct Action vs Burger Fuel
* News Briefs
* Upcoming public events
Behind the spectacle of The Hobbit 10:52 Thu 30 Sep 0 comments
One of the most popular products exported from New Zealand has been the atmospheric Lord of the Rings films. They invoke images of a far off land called Middle Earth complete with massive mountains, panoramic landscapes, and furry wee Hobbits fighting the evil Dark Lord. The next film based in the same fantasy world, The Hobbit, is to be shot in NZ next year. NZ Actors Equity, the union for actors in NZ, has called upon international actors unions to black the film production. The International Federation of Actors have agreed, and so unions like the Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA, Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio have boycotted the film.
Solidarity Issue 10 out now - July 2010 Issue 18:25 Wed 30 Jun 0 comments
The tenth issue of Solidarity, free newssheet of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement is now out.
Read the contents online, or download a .pdf copy, at http://awsm.org.nz/?p=379
Wellington: Politicians Pay Poverty Wages 05:37 Thu 25 Feb 0 comments
On 17th February, 2010, members of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement attended a rally of striking cleaners at Parliament in Wellington organized by the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU). The rally was part of the SFWU’s clean start campaign demanding and hourly wage increase from $12.55 to $14.62 for cleaners employed at Parliament and the police college in Porirua, in line with a recent pay increase for hospital cleaners and directly-employed school cleaners.
Let’s Melt The Wage Freeze 14:02 Sat 28 Nov 0 comments
On Friday November 27th, thousands of workers took part in rallies and marches in 27 cities and towns across the country, demanding that the Government’s wage freeze for state sector employees was lifted. The protests focused on the struggles of hospital and school support staff, and employees at the Ministry of Justice, but many people from other sectors supported the demand and turned out to show their solidarity. Many of the attendees were on strike for the duration of the rallies.
Members of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) were present at rallies and marches in Auckland, Palmerston North, Levin, Wellington and Nelson. Below is the text of a leaflet handed out by AWSM members at the protests.
Who's Flexibility? Oct 08 0 comments
The General Election in New Zealand/Aotearoa took place at the end of September and so its all over and done with. More accurately, the ritual of deciding who will politically rule over us has ended. The election of our bosses in the workplace never happened. The end result in both cases is the same. We are faced with a ruling class that feels emboldened to attack workers when it senses opportunities to do so. The latest piece of ammunition the government is preparing to lob our way comes in the form of a bland sounding piece of legislation, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill. This law was delayed prior to the election, due to the resignation of the now ex-MP criminal John Banks, but will be enacted within the next 100 days. What is the bill about?
Solidarity #6 - Free newssheet from AWSM Mar 02 0 comments
The sixth issue of Solidarity, free newssheet of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement. Download the .pdf at http://www.awsm.org.nz/solidarity/issue6.pdf (1.44MB), or visit our website to read the contents online - http://awsm.org.nz/?p=243.
* Politicians Pay Poverty Wages
* Taranaki’s council and DHB bosses earn over $300,000
* Report from Wellington ACC Protest
* Upcoming public discussion evenings
* Crossword Puzzle
Burgers & Circuses Jul 20 0 comments
The New Zealand Government has announced that it will subsidise the Mc Donalds fast food chain for taking on young unemployed workers. In effect therefore the company is recieving corporate welfare, with the government acting as its Human Resources Dept. Below is a satirical response.
NewZealand: SuperSizeMyPay.Com: $12 Minimum Wage, Abolish Youth Rates and Secure Hours Nov 05 0 comments
I am organising a campaign called SuperSizeMyPay.Com with other organisers at the Union I work for in Aotearoa/New Zealand to fight for a higher minimum wage, the abolision of youth rates and secure hours in the Fast Food industry and to get this legislated.
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