How to stop National’s threat

August 8, 2008

- Don Franks

Under the guise of “giving young, inexperienced people or new immigrants a better chance at a job”, National is proposing a new restriction on workers.

“We will introduce a 90-day trial period for new staff, by agreement between the employer and employee, in businesses with fewer than 20 people,” National party leader John Key announced in a 24 July press release.

During this 90-day trial period, either party may terminate the employment relationship for performance without a personal grievance claim being brought.

National’s proposal should be rejected by all workers and fair-minded people.

The personal grievance procedure is no fail-safe protection against unfair dismissal, but it does provide a narrow avenue for workers to contest injustice. National’s election promise to deny new staff access to their day in court would move the bar even further in the employer’s favour.

National’s industrial proposals have been roundly condemned by trade unionists. NZ Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says: “Cuts in workers’ rights and entitlements and privatisation are all this party has to offer to date.”

She says National’s industrial policy “really will clarify for workers and their families which parties have their interests at stake”, concluding that “instead of supporting the current approach balancing employer and employee interests, [National] is trying to drag us backwards”.

Helen Kelly is quite right to condemn National’s anti-worker 90-day trial. But she ignores the fact that National promises to retain significant current labour laws which she supports, and will:

*continue to allow union access to workplaces with an employer’s consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld

*continue to support the social partnership with Business NZ and the CTU to work together on issues of mutual interest

*retain the Mediation Service.

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Who got the new minimum wage rise?

April 29, 2008

- Jared Phillips

The Council of Trade Unions and various individual unions have put out statements regarding the April 1 2008 minimum wage rise to $12 and the abolition of youth rates for most young workers.

CTU secretary Carol Beaumont said:

Twelve dollars an hour is a commitment that this Labour-led government made with the Greens and New Zealand First, and it has now fully delivered on it. And with the abolition of youth rates from April 1 also, 16- and 17-year-olds will see their minimum wage rise from $9 to $12 after 200 hours or 3 months, whichever is sooner.

Unite union led the campaign for these changes. It was demanding $12 in 2005. This demand was also coupled with the sentiment ‘2008 is far too late’.

However, the recent increase to $12 is attributable to the large SupersizeMyPay campaign led by Unite, which picked up on wage discontent amongst low-paid workers and young workers.

The abolition of youth rates was even more clearly driven by Unite plus groups of young workers, adult workers, revolutionaries, leftists, and social democrats to the left of Labour. Unite hit the youth employers, Unite and students organised by radical youth hit the public, and then, with the NDU, Unite hit and manipulated the government. That is the history of the struggle against youth rates, which have yet to be finally eradicated.

This mass organising movement was the real force behind the most dramatic pack of successive minimum wage increases in decades. Unite is now successfully organising to get workers off minimum wage, and has just signed up more than 1000 new members in KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks stores.


Australian Labor Government looks to preserve most of Howard’s industrial reforms

March 5, 2008

In November last year the Australian Labor Party was elected to office on a tidal wave of opposition to the previous Howard government’s industrial reforms, which had threatened to scrap award conditions as well as undermine collective bargaining rights.

However, just like the New Zealand Labour Government’s introduction of the Employment Relations Act shortly after their election in 1999, the ALP’s proposed new industrial legislation actually promises to change very little for workers, as the following report from the Socialist Party of Australia makes clear.

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