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Private Sector Collective Bargaining Down


Private Sector Collective Bargaining Down

Business Update: Victoria University has just completed its annual review (for 2002) of unions in NZ. Key points:

Union density is down slightly from 2001

The number of unions has doubled; most of the new unions are small and enterprise-based and many do not see themselves as unions: a number reported “the ERA forced us to become a union”

There has been a “collapse of collective bargaining in the private sector” – less than a quarter of NZ workers are in a collective agreement

“Collective bargaining is five times more common in the public sector than the private sector …unsurprisingly the public sector is well represented in dispute statistics”

“The bleak news for unions, and their most important strategic challenge for the medium term, is that they are doing best in declining sectors of the economy and worst in the growing sectors.”

The review is to be posted on www.vuw.ac.nz.

PAYMENTS TO JOIN THE UNION The Victoria review indicates the context for the current ‘million dollar bribe’ for DoC workers to join the PSA. DoC’s proposed collective agreement gives additional salary to each employee willing to join the union. The payouts for union membership in the Ministry of Social Development total $2.5m, IRD $1.7m, Corrections $349,556, Internal Affairs $242,700, and Land & Information $168,436, says ACT’s Rodney Hide. "Clark's Government is forcing taxpayers to shell out millions of dollars to drive up PSA membership. It's union-pork politics. It's not what taxpayers pay their taxes for," Mr Hide said.

PRIVY COUNCIL PETITION PM Helen Clark used a speech in London yesterday to signal her plan to scrap the Privy Council as NZ's final court of appeal. The move indicates an unwillingness to take heed of large-scale opposition to the plan at home. Businesses are concerned about the implications for commercial cases if denied the right of appeal to the Privy Council – many of the NZ cases overturned by the Privy Council have been commercial ones. You can register concern by printing out, signing and returning the multi-party Privy Council Petition (on www.businessnz.org.nz under ‘what’s new’).

HOLIDAYS BILLS COSTLY Given the Government’s announcement that it will not increase holiday entitlements this term, Parliament should reject Matt Robson’s (four weeks’ leave) Bill, Business NZ’s Anne Knowles told a select committee yesterday. She said passing a law with an implementation date well into the future - to bind an as yet unelected parliament - was not constitutionally sound. The Robson Bill would mean an additional cost of nearly a billion dollars each year on NZ businesses. Then there is the other Holidays Bill that would, among other things, allow Christmas and New Year holidays falling at the weekend to be both Mondayised as well as observed on the days themselves - a further significant cost. Business NZ recommended that the Robson Bill should not proceed, and the Holidays Bill should be substantially rewritten. Business NZ’s submissions are on www.businessnz.org.nz. Contact bburton@businessnz.org.nz.

LOCAL GOVT ACT COMING HOME TO ROOST There are signs of revolt in the deep south over the new Local Government Act. The Clutha District Council recently voted down a staff request for funding to prepare a ‘Long Term Community Plan’ (a requirement of the new Act). The Council intends taking the matter to a meeting of all South Island councils, saying: “The law requires that your local council prepares a Long Term Community Plan that identifies “community outcomes” to reflect the community’s aspirations for its future. It doesn’t matter whether Council can do anything to achieve these “outcomes” it still has to identify them. Even if it can do something about them it doesn’t have to – as long as the community has been consulted is what counts. Completing this paper work exercise will add between one and two percent to the rates. The law will cause one of two things to happen; Councils will either suffer from paralysis by analysis or council staff will neuter the Act by preparing “Yes Minister” policies. Either outcome will mean that the community actually ends up with even less say over its affairs than it has now. What makes this Act unworkable is that much of the cost of the core services local government provides is being determined by government policy. The cost of water treatment will be determined by Health Standards set by the Ministry of Health from Wellington. The future cost of sewer and storm water discharges will be determined by the RMA consent conditions set by the Regional Council and the

Ministry of Health. The size and cost of the pipes supplying water to you is dictated by the NZ Fire Service. Regional landfills and recycling are being required even if they aren’t environmentally sound or cost-effective. What is the effect of all of this? Take Owaka with a couple of hundred ratepayers. It has a water supply pumped from a bore. It is a better source than that supplying Auckland, and it is provided without chlorine to the locals, which is the way they like it. According to the Ministry of Health it is a Class E/e supply (determined by risk not quality). The MoH’s new water quality standards will require it to be filtered and dosed with chlorine, and put in a reservoir all at a cost in excess of $500,000 – even though the community may not want it. And sewage! It is proposed that eventually all waste water will have to be disposed of to land. It doesn’t matter that for up to eight months of the year the ground is too wet to absorb the waste. It doesn’t matter that the treated sewage may have only minimal impact on the quality of the water in the Owaka River. Spending a million dollars on Owaka’s infrastructure has the same effect per ratepayer as spending three billion dollars on Auckland’s. That is another six hundred dollars each year on the Owaka rates even before the extra running costs of the new systems are added. Owaka doesn’t have rich suburbs and lots of large commercial ratepayers to carry a greater share of the cost. Owaka doesn’t attract the concern of half of the nation’s MP’s whenever it runs into a challenge. However the government has decided that the community in Owaka cannot have a say in the level of risk and investment they make in their infrastructure. This isn’t just an issue for Owaka, but for every small rural town in New Zealand. The new Act in tandem with the various policies from Government is going to leave local government too broke and too busy consulting to do much of anything.” Contact nclark@businessnz.org.nz.

LAWYERS & CONVEYANCERS New opportunities for lawyers, conveyancers and others were outlined in a speech to the Wellington District Law Society by Justice Minister Phil Goff on Wednesday. The new Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill would allow lawyers to sell real estate and to market their expertise as lawyers. They would also be able to incorporate, although their limited liability status would be restricted - directors and shareholders would be liable for any theft committed by the firm, and lawyers would continue to owe duties of care to clients. People other than lawyers would be allowed to provide legal advice and draft legal documents, but would not be allowed to appear in courts or tribunals or perform statutory functions such as certifying matrimonial property agreements. The legislation would end lawyers’ exclusive right to carry out conveyancing work. Conveyancers, like lawyers, would

have to have a (capped) fidelity fund, with provisions for circumstances if the fund could not meet claims on it. Mr Goff said similar deregulation in New South Wales had led to around 20% of residential conveyancing being done by licensed conveyancers.

GROWTH STATS

MAY TRADE SURPLUS DIVES Merchandise exports in May were worth $2,744m, 1.3% lower than the early estimate. Merchandise imports were worth $2,634m, giving a merchandise trade surplus of 4% for May, much lower than the average May surplus of 14.2% of the previous decade. It is the lowest trade balance as a percentage of exports since May 1995 when two large aircraft were imported. The provisional value of merchandise exports was $349m lower than in May 2002, with the higher exchange rate causing significant falls in export values when expressed in $NZ. Seventeen of our top 20 markets purchased lower values of NZ goods in May 2003 than May 2002.

RETAIL TRADE After two consecutive monthly falls in seasonally adjusted sales, retail sales increased 0.7% in May. The ‘core retailing’ group (excludes motor vehicles retailing & services) increased 1.2%. The 0.7% increase for May 2003 compared favourably to the 1.7% fall during May 2002, but was slightly weaker than the 0.9% increase during May 2001. It should be noted that the timing for Easter (March vs. April) can have an impact on May sales. Ten of the 15 storetypes recorded rises in seasonally adjusted sales, led by motor vehicles (+$19m) and recreational goods (+$12m). The largest falls were for motor vehicle services

(-$28m) and food (-$6m).

INDUSTRIAL PEACE IN MARCH QUARTER Because the March quarter recorded the ending of only one work stoppage, information relating to that stoppage was not released as it would have identified the workplace concerned (Statistics NZ confidentiality rules). This was the lowest number of stoppages ending for March quarter since the June 2000 quarter, when three workplace stoppages ended. Over the March year, 40 work stoppages ended, one less than the number recorded for the March 2002 year. Stats courtesy of www.stats.govt.nz

WHAT’S NEW on www.businessnz.org.nz

Constitutional and cost concerns over Holidays Bills

Petition for retaining access to the Privy Council

Constitutional change by stealth not on

Kyoto taxes our competitiveness


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