Since Labour announced its Work and Wages Policy, there’s been the editorials repeating the “TINA” (There is no Alternative) lines of yesteryear and arguing for trickle down. Then there’s those who have an in-built opposition to anything that might improve the lot of working people, and an aversion to those dreadful organisations called “unions” – the 370,000 New Zealanders who are part of today’s unions.
This is old National at their worse. It’s they who haven’t changed and who are out of touch. They need to catch up with the reality of work and wages for most New Zealanders and they need to tune into the debate that’s happening around the world about the failure of the orthodoxy of the last 20 years.
When Labour introduced the Employment Relations Act (ERA) in 2000, we heard the same rubbish from some National MPs who are now Ministers and others best forgotten. The ERA was going to be the end of the world, while today, most will concede that it was very modest regulation indeed.
Eleven years ago, this is what Jenny Shipley, Max Bradford, Gerry Brownlee and Richard Prebble said in Parliament.
Rt Hon. JENNY SHIPLEY (Leader of the Opposition): Welcome to Jurassic Park. This is a step backwards for New Zealand…… Taking New Zealand back to ideas that most people thought were extinct is no way to forge the future for this country. I do give notice here that the Government would have been far better to build on the strengths of the Employment Contracts Act, rather than destroy them and try to reintroduce some notions that most people thought had seriously gone 50 years ago, or more.
Hon. MAX BRADFORD (NZ National): … why is the Labour-Alliance Government digging up all the old processes, the old institutions, the old dinosaurs of the past in order to get it? One of the reasons that the Employment Contracts Act was introduced in 1991 was the old system under the industrial relations legislation, the Labour Relations Act, was not working. Yet here we have a grand march backwards into the past to try to assert—because that is all it is; an assertion—that somehow or other employment relationships will improve, growth will improve, and we will get more jobs out of this approach to industrial relations……. there are people who are waiting to leave this country because it will be too difficult under this legislation to employ people and to invest.
Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ):…. Who do the Alliance, the Labour Party, and the Greens think they are fooling? This bill is compulsory unionism by the back door. We know what the consequences will be. It is well known that the country’s port unions have already been meeting. They have already agreed that they will be asking for a collective agreement. When this bill comes into effect on 1 August, they will be making a demand to every single port in the country for a collective agreement—in other words, a national award. They are prepared to go on strike to get it. It is already well known that the North Island freezing works sheds—the unions—have already met. They have already agreed on their collective agreement, and the moment this law comes into effect they intend to exercise industrial muscle to get that agreement.
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): …… This bill, dressed up as a herald of integrity and individual choice in industrial relations, is nothing more than another step on the long march backward that this Labour-Alliance Government is determined to inflict on New Zealand. This bill rips out any element of trust and mutual respect from industrial relations in this country. It is based on the premise that the employer is always wrong. It is based on the premise that there is an intrinsic, irreconcilable difference between employers and employees. Always it is the employer who is the guilty party, regardless of the circumstances. This bill is the most unbalanced legislation that could ever have been introduced in the industrial relations area.
Eleven years ago, according to the National Party, employment law change was going to be the end of the world. Did the world end? No, of course it didn’t. In fact we had good growth, low unemployment, no debt and an improving social outlook.
Thank goodness there are some real thinkers contributing to the modern conversation about how we build a better and fairer economy and society.
Here’s a good piece on wages from Bill Rosenberg today.