Red Alert

Let it be known everywhere

Posted by on May 15th, 2012

Last week, a couple of papers fell off the back of a truck which were of particular interest to Kiwi workers. They outlined the government’s changes to labour laws and gave the Department of Labour’s assessment and warnings about the consequences of the government’s changes.

I thought the Minister of Labour would get the hint that Labour knew more than she was telling when I asked her a question in the House last Wednesday. Then in my speech on Tau Henare’s strike ballot bill I outlined the stupidity of her government’s proposals in regard to pay reductions for partial strikes – and she was in the House listening.

So I was gobsmacked that when the papers were revealed in the Dompost, Kate Wilkinson suggested that I had made them up. Later that day, the government was forced to come clean and made the announcements I knew were coming.

The changes will systematically take apart our labour relations framework, part by part and clause by clause. Our employment law will still be called the Employment Relations Act, but the worst provisions of that most draconian of employment laws from the 1990’s, the Employment Contracts Act will replace much of it. They will do nothing to address the most volatile industrial relations environment we’ve seen in NZ in years, and will definitely do nothing to increase wages and provide decent work.

The government is couching their plans in the Crosby Textor language of “choice, balance, flexibility” and are described as “minor” by the PM John Key.

That’s rubbish. We’ve got a wages crisis in New Zealand and that’s because our employment relations system isn’t working to ensure fairness for working people. The government’s changes will make this worse.

Last week, when we were debating Tau Henare’s secret ballots for strikes bill (which has now passed and will soon become law), National Party MPs indulged themselves in an outburst of the “free at last” quote from Martin Luther King.

Well, that great man died in Memphis when he was attending a struggle for the right of public workers to have a union and to collectively bargain.

King declared : “Let it be known everywhere, that along with wages and all of the other securities that you are struggling for, you are also struggling for the right to organise and be recognised.” The key issues for the Memphis strikers were their demands that the City of Memphis grant collective bargaining rights and the collection of union fees.

I’m taking bets on how many National MPs stand up and quote Martin Luther King on collective bargaining and workers rights when these miserable changes come to the Parliament.

And let it be known everywhere : Labour will oppose these changes vigorously and determinedly.

16 Responses to “Let it be known everywhere”

  1. mickysavage says:

    Good stuff Darien. Keep it up.

  2. Anne says:

    This is the kind of passion and determination many of us have been waiting to see from Labour. Good on you Darien.

  3. Jilly Bee says:

    Kia Kaha, Darien, as mickeysavage says, ‘keep it up’, I’m with you all the way.

  4. Keith says:

    > We’ve got a wages crisis in New Zealand and that’s because our employment relations system isn’t working to ensure fairness for working people.

    No. Many people in New Zealand work as contractors. They do not have an employer-employee relationship with the people hiring them. I am one such and have never been in an employer-employee relationship. I contract because it puts me on an equal footing with those hiring me. So if the money I make is less than I could make overseas if can scarcely be because of fairness issues.

    The reasons I make less money than overseas have a lot to do with taxes and regulations suppressing the wealth creating potential of businesses I contract with.

  5. Dissilusioned EX Labour supporter says:

    And as usual the NATS will ignore you.. time to admit it, you got it wrong with Shearer, and dump him now. Or the last of your floating support will as palpable as a Shearer speech.

  6. John Ryall says:

    Good point about Martin Luther King Darien. He would have the same distain for Tau and his anti-worker rants as the rest of us do.

    This is the man who said, when he was a member of one of the many parties he has been involved in, that he wouldn’t be part of any coalition with the National Party.

    Nek minute he is a financial member.

  7. Tim G says:

    @keith – good on you if you are able to make good on a contractor relationship such that you’re prepared to relinquish the protections of an employee.

    However, many others are now being deemed to be contractors with no commensurate economic benefits for relinquishing these protections. These people need access to representation and competent legal advice to enable them to bargain on an equal footing with their bosses.

    So please give up the one size fits all argument – you know it is a fallacy.

  8. stever says:

    @Keith: you do know that the OECD rates NZ as one of the easiest places in the world (on tax and regulations grounds) to do business, don’t you? So, actually, your lower income has very little to do with taxes and regulations.

  9. Rosa19 says:

    do we have a wage crisis or a profitability crisis?

  10. Pete says:

    We need a worker’s bill of rights in this country. Entrenched too.

  11. “The government is couching their plans in the Crosby Textor language of “choice, balance, flexibility” and are described as “minor” by the PM John Key.”

    If you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one, a message that Mr Key seems to understand well.

  12. Waterboy says:

    Fairs Fair, at least this term National are behaving like a right wing party and not Labours big brother.

    Anyone who expects anything different needs a reality check. At least you have a point of difference now Darien and can have a fair go at waking NZ up to why they should vote Labour.

  13. Jack Ramaka says:

    To increase profitability you can do one of three things increase the number of units you sell, improve your margins ie your selling price or reduce your costs (ie labour).

    The Auckland Wharf Problems are a classic example with both sides needing to have a good look at themselves, the real losers in this one are the ratepayers who will pick up the tab for this squabble. With the Council wanting a 12% ROI this ia a nonsense, it is difficult to get a 5% return on property and you will be lucky to get 5% return at the Bank.

  14. jennifer says:

    Why give Mark Textor the credit? Tories have been demonising unions for decades, centuries maybe. What I find amazing is that the left still hasn’t developed a persuasive contemporary narrative to counter it, and win back the ‘hearts and minds’ of the lower and middle classes who have deserted it in droves.

  15. arandar says:

    Jack, ^^^ Or, 4. We could be producing fewer, better units instead of more, cheaper, and pricing accordingly.

  16. Patrick says:

    Great stuff Darien.