The government is quietly making a move on collective bargaining in the State Sector. The State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill, tabled in parliament last week, has a provision that has many speculating that this government is intending to implement its own version of the Wisconsin assault on collective bargaining in the public sector.
In a new provision under the bill, “workforce policy matters”, including the government’s “expectations” for pay and conditions, will be issued by Order in Council, which means they will be legally binding. This will allow the government to jump over any collective bargaining and good faith process and dictate pay and conditions. It will undermine collective bargaining in the State and diminish the employment rights of thousands of workers.
HIgh levels of union density in the State Sector, as compared to the Private Sector has an impact in setting pay and conditions overall. The government’s keenness to reduce government expenditure in the State makes collective bargaining and union membership an obvious target for implementing employment policies aimed at reducing the influence on the overall labour market.
These changes, along with the government’s amendments to collective bargaining for all workers will enable employers to pay new workers less; and that’s the clear intention.
Every New Zealander needs to be concerned about these changes. They might look like they only affect unionised workers, but they will affect everyone.
Wages are already too low in New Zealand. Take away collective bargaining and further weaken unions, then the only thing left to fall back on is a reliance on the market and good old trickle down.
And has that worked?
I don’t think so.