by Michael Ashton
An online survey commissioned by the New Zealand Business Council in February found that 1 in 5 people in the workforce fear that they will lose their jobs in 2009. Thirty-nine percent of those indicating they fear job loss are earners of between $20,001 and $30,000 a year, meaning that this category feels most insecure.
The introduction this month of the 90-day probationary employment legislation will compound the growing anxiety amongst working people and especially the working poor. A stand is being made through the Rat Patrol, a group of people who have undertaken to put pickets and a giant inflatable rat outside the premises of employers who unfairly dismiss workers in their first 90-days.
Some of the main objectives are to deter employers from using the legislation against workers, to provide a mobile picket squad that can assist workers who do not yet belong to unions, and to prevent the legislation becoming accessible to employers that employ more than 20 workers. The Rat Patrol is focussed on signing up more people to its cause, educating the public, and generally getting the word out that the bosses can and will be fought.
Prior to the legislation coming into effect, the Rat Patrol made various appearances throughout the Auckland Region at markets and other popular public events. Nicola Owen - a Community Law Centre worker and Socialist Aotearoa activist - who has been a regular Rat Patrol volunteer said the Rat Patrol had received a great response throughout Auckland with many people signing-up and expressing anger at government moves to take away basic rights, ‘People love the idea of bringing the inflatable giant rat to their work to shame unscrupulous bosses’, she said. Others working in community law centres have joined the Rat Patrol campaign which has been endorsed by the Coalition of Community Law Centres. They have linked it to their campaign against 44 percent funding cuts to the services they provide.
Christchurch Workers Party and Alliance Party activists have also formed the Workers Rights Campaign which will similarly challenge and put pickets down on employers who use the 90-day legislation.
Paul Piesse, a spokesperson for the group commented ‘The big lie is the deceit that the law would encourage employers to take on people they otherwise would not. Employers, he said, only ever employ people when they really need them. Their objective is to maximise their profits - they don’t function as a social service to the unemployed’. The Workers Rights Campaign has already picketed the office of Government MP Nicola Wagner.
If you, your friend, or your fam has a Rat boss in Auckland call Unite on 0800 2 UNITE and report unfair sackings To contact or get involved with the Workers Rights Campaign in Christchurch call Paul Piesse on
To sign the petition against funding cuts to community law centres go to www.communitylaw.org.nz