This week, National MPs indulged themselves with a bit of union bashing during their support for Tau Henare’s Employment Relations (Secret Relations Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bil.
The worst comments were from Tau Henare and other National MPs, who insisted on quoting Martin Luther King saying “Free at Last, Thank God Almighty we are Free at Last.”
How embarrassing to compare a petty little bill, that has nothing to do with freedom, freedom of choice, or more importantly, freedom of association with that great defender of civil rights and equality, Martin Luther King.
Tau Henare and his other acolytes, including Jami-Lee Ross, made speeches that would have made Bill Birch of the 1990s National Party proud.
The prejudice is awful. The consequences for New Zealand workers are dire when you add everything up.
This week, I found out a whole lot more about the government’s intention to roll back worker rights and collective bargaining. (I’ll have more to say on this).
The Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, is due to make her annual junket to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva in June. So far, she’s been able to bask in some of the glory from the former Labour government and New Zealand’s place as a respected member of the ILO. We had moved on from the shame in the 1990s when a special Rappateur was sent to New Zealand to investigate NZ’s breaches of core labour standards. New Zealand were pariahs in the international labour community then, aligned with third world countries who think workers should be grateful to have jobs. We might be joining them again soon.
I am wondering how the Minister of Labour will justify Tau Henare’s bill, which on its own, is irrelevant in the scale of issues facing New Zealand workers, but in the bigger picture, will require an explanation of how her government’s changes to collective bargaining and strikes will help advance the rights of New Zealand working people and our place in the world.
Think about this : if the influence of unions is removed altogether in NZ, what will happen to wages, to standards, to fairness?
Would we still have a minimum wage? Would we have ever moved to four weeks annual leave?
Would there even be a discussion about health and safety?
Or are you willing to leave it up to the Tau Henares and Jami-lee Ross’s of the world?