Red Alert

Archive for the ‘sick leave’ Category

Wake up NZ

Posted by on November 17th, 2010

Tonight was another horror night in our parliament. And no-one was in the gallery to see.

The National Government, supported by ACT AND the Maori Party rushed through legislation under urgency (again) for no good reason to take away the 4th week of your holidays.

Under the guise of “negotiation” with employers, and other code words such as “flexibility”, “choice” and “trading up” the upshot is that you get to trade one week of your precious holidays, that’s time with your family, for an extra week’s pay. Do you get a pay rise? No. What do you get out of it? A bit more money but less time off.

Selling our annual leave. Is it a good idea? No. The National Government thinks you should be grateful.

Why did the Maori Party support it? Can they tell us? Who’s interests are being served here?

This Bill contained many other unpleasant consequences for wage and salary earners. Making it much harder for you to take sick leave. My colleagues will no doubt talk more about this and the other provisions.

Labour argued strenuously and eloquently against this Bill. In particular my colleagues Trevor Mallard, Carol Beaumont and Darien Fenton.

But we don’t have the numbers. These are your working conditions. They’re gone. Wake up NZ. You’re being screwed.


A government with its ears tight shut

Posted by on November 3rd, 2010

Surprise, surprise, the Government has completely ignored the submissions and protests of those opposing changes to the Employment Relations and Holidays Acts.

The Select Committee has reported back on the two bills and have recommended almost no changes. In the Employment Relations Bill No 2, the extension of the 90 day no rights trial periods to all workplaces, the restricting of workers to their unions at work and the weakening of personal grievance provisions remain.

In the Holidays Amendment Bill, employers will still be able to demand a medical certificate for a single day’s absence (one of the more silly provisions that I really thought the government might ditch) and the sale of the fourth week’s annual leave and the weakening of rights around alternative statutory holidays will go ahead.

What’s annoying is while the government’s is prepared to rush through bad employment law under urgency to please an international corporation, they are not prepared to listen to the 8,000 people who took the trouble to make submissions opposing these two bills, or to the 22,000 workers who rallied across New Zealand a couple of weeks ago.

There’s nothing about these changes that will improve productivity or enhance workplace relationships. There’s nothing here that will help our wages keep pace with, let alone catch up with Australia.  This is a feeble attempt to please employers and business at the expense of some pretty fundamental rights. 

The only possible message for Kiwi workers from this is that the government has its ears tight shut when it comes to their issues – unless they want their ideas and help to get through a recession.


Key forgets about US FTA as he reduces worker protection for Warner Bros.

Posted by on October 31st, 2010

When I was Minister of Labour we signed up to two big trade deals China and P4 (NZ, Chile, Singapore and Brunei.

Both pretty big deals – the associated memoranda were designed to protect us from undercutting – the competitive race to the bottom of the wage/skills spectrum. CTU and Business NZ both played a positive role because they saw our future heading up that spectrum.

Since then both organisations have been supportive of the work both governments have been doing on a NZ/US FTA. The CTU have worked with the AFLCIO whose support will be vital especially but not only for Democrat members of the house who must approve any agreement or at least give the President permission to negotiate with particular conditions. And Democrats and US unions don’t naturally support free trade. Nor for that matter do a significant proportion of Republicans.

The Memorandum of Understanding between China and New Zealand is very clear :-

4. The Parties recognise that it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing the protections afforded in domestic labour laws, regulations, policies and practices.

As is the P4 Memorandum of Understanding

5. The Parties recognise that it is inappropriate to set or use their labour laws, regulations, policies and practices for trade protectionist purposes.

6. The Parties recognise that it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing the protections afforded in domestic labour laws.

The important point for this blog is that it is inappropriate to reduce protections to encourage investment.

Which is exactly what the government did in order to secure the Warners Hobbit investment.

I don’t think it is likely that anyone will take a case against us – but one thing is for certain, any plans we had to work with the AFLCIO towards a US free trade deal died when Key gave Warners the pen on our industrial relations legislation.


Sick note : sick joke

Posted by on September 18th, 2010

No, this isn’t about David Garrett and ACT, even although that’s what everyone wants to talk about right now. This affects YOU.

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Filed under: sick leave

Will submissions change the government’s mind?

Posted by on September 15th, 2010

According to the CTU, an estimated 6000 submissions have been forwarded on the government’s antiquated Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No 2) to the Transport & Industrial Relations Select Committee.

This is the bill that :

• Extends the 90 day no rights trial period to all workplaces

• Restricts the right of workers to have access to their unions at work

• Weakens fair processes where workers actually manage to get a grievance hearing

among other things.

Submissions hearings begin tomorrow in Wellington, and are likely to take up a lot of time in the next few weeks.  The Select Committee will travel to other places (to be determined) and also meet during House Sitting time to get through the very tight timeframe of reporting back the bill by 7 November.

I’ve read some of the submissions so far and the arguments are comprehensive and convincing.  With unions planning a national day of action in October, it will be interesting to see if the National Government members, who have the majority on the committee, are prepared to listen – and if necessary convince their Minister to change her mind.

We’ll see – but not holding my breath.

These are public hearings, so come along if you can.


Have your say at Select Committee – just kidding!

Posted by on August 27th, 2010

The most significant changes to workers’ rights in two decades are coming our way via the Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No 2), and the Holidays Amendment Bill, which had their first readings in parliament in the last few days.

So, you would think that the government would want New Zealanders (both for and against) to have their say.

Not so, it seems.

The two bills have been referred to the Transport & Industrial Relations Select Committee, who had, according to the Chair David Bennett, decided “informally” to call for submissions, even prior to the conclusion of the first readings in parliament.

(Disclosure :  I am a member of this Select Committee, where Labour and the Greens are in the minority, so I know what really happened, but I can’t say so publicly).

The timeframe for the submissions for these two bills is at best three weeks, with closing dates on the 13 September and 17 September respectively.

I would have thought the government would be keen to ensure all of support they claim to have had around the 90 day fire at will extension, the sickies get-to-the-doctor-or-else provision and the selling of holidays were able0 to be presented at Select Committee.

Or should I be more cynical?  Is the short timeframe really designed to make sure that unions and workers have as little time as possible to have their say?

If the government really believes there is support for these changes, they would have given more time for submissions.

But then there’s ACT calling the shots and National meekly following on behind.  I forgot that Minister Kate Wilkinson got rolled at Cabinet (again) over her recommendations.


John Armstrong has a point

Posted by on July 24th, 2010

I love a good protest. I come from a union that was often left with no other option other than to protest.  It makes you feel like you are doing something, it certainly helps with the anger and gives some hope that there are still people in the world who care about others.

I went along to the protest outside Skycity last Sunday to show my support for my union.  I left when the storming of the wrong building began, feeling pretty certain that the pictures that were showed later on TV would actually help the National Government, rather than deter it.

And in the week since, I’ve had numerous conversations with people about how they view proposed changes to employment law and why they will affect everyone’s ability to earn and make a decent living. I’ve also talked with a lot of workers (of all kinds) about the protest.

So John Armstrong‘s piece in the NZ Herald today makes a lot of sense, especially where he says :

The storming of the hotel might have fitted the finest tradition of the labour movement – and McCarten warned of more to come. But it is not itself that the labour movement needs to communicate with if it is to roll back National’s planned changes to employment law.

The Labour Party has worked that out. If the debate is only about what the unions think and want, then it is all over before it has begun. The strategy is going to have to be a little more sophisticated than that.

I can hear the radical left calling me a sell-out already, but I  remember the 1990′s and the Employment Contracts Act and the glorious defeats of those years.  There were many in the union movement then who thought that if workers were treated badly enough, the flag would go up and there would be fight back. There wasn’t. Workers got screwed, and New Zealand has never recovered.

There will be radical protests, the CTU will mobilise their members and take action. That’s fine – that’s what they should do.

But Labour has to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of workers who aren’t in unions, who don’t get why everyone is so upset about the proposed labour law changes, and who have no experience of the 1990′s.

John Armstrong’s right about that needing a lot more sophistication than we’ve seen so far.


Sick leave – more or less?

Posted by on June 7th, 2010

I see that even David Farrar thinks that the statutory minimum of 5 days of sick leave entitlements isn’t sufficient and he would be happy to see 10 days, but it looks like less sick leave, not more, is on the cards.

Word is that the government’s review of the Holidays Act could result in significant cuts to sick leave and annual leave, especially for workers who work more than an 8 hour day. It goes like this :

All leave is allocated in hours instead of days, so for sick leave it’s 40 hours, not five working days per year.

So if someone who works 4 x 10 hour shifts per week takes 3 days sick leave, that’s 30 hours used up.  That worker then only has 10  hours left  - in other words, one day – so that worker will lose 1 day of sick leave a year under this arrangement.

It gets worse if annual leave is calculated in the same way.   Currently, annual leave is calculated at either the ordinary weekly wage, or the  average earnings for previous 12 month period, whichever amount is greater.  This is particularly important for workers who work shifts and for part-time and seasonal workers who work irregular hours.

Holidays calculated on the basis of hours will mean less than four weeks paid annual leave for many workers.  Apparently, there’s going to be a whole new Holidays Act and goodness knows what other gems will be in it.

Watch this space.