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RICHARD PREBBLE’S - Letter from Wellington

Letter from Wellington
Monday, 31 July 2000

The Employment Relations Bill will dominate Parliamentary politics for the next three weeks. The Bill should have returned from select committee today after a mammoth session, which included a record number of submissions. More than 400 oral submissions have been heard, over 2000 substantive submissions were received, together with 18,000 form submissions and a petition of 57,000 signatures against the Bill. The Employment Contracts Act received just 440 submissions.

Spin, Spin, Spin

The coalition is desperate to spin its version of the Bill to the media first. They have gone as far as to ignore a unanimous select committee vote to ensure they can. The Government informed the business committee that organises Parliament that the Bill would be reported back by Monday. The Bill has been printed. The delay is simply manipulating the media. Tabling the Bill on Monday would allow those affected by the Bill, employers and employees, time to consider the Bill before Parliament sits on Tuesday.

But committee chair, Graham Kelly MP, who has been threatening opposition MPs and the media with breach of privilege if they discuss the Bill, has unilaterally decided to delay the Bill’s tabling.

The Bill will now be reported back on Tuesday, effectively compromising the ability of ACT MPs to inform business of the Bill’s content.

We have decided to ignore the Government’s censorship and proceed with the seminars anyway.
The public have the right to know. Why should business have to pay $500 to attend a law firm’s seminar to learn what is in the Bill?

The Winners

There have been a number of changes made to the Employment Relations Bill since its introduction. Some of the changes to the Bill are positive for the people affected, however many of the changes are cosmetic and are still anti-business. The Bill’s fundamental purpose, the promotion of trade union interests, remains unchanged. The changes that can be considered positive are;
 Faced with possible civil insurrection by owner drivers, the government has given away trying to make contractors employees
 Firms must still give their books to unions in bargaining but there are now safeguards
 The ban on fixed term contracting goes (so can Christine Rankin).
 Clause 66 – the compulsory redundancy clause – has gone
 The liability of directors for wages is so restricted as to be meaningless.

The Losers

Unions still have a monopoly right to negotiate collective agreements. Only union members can strike or be covered by a collective agreement. Other anti-business measures include:
 Union officials have free access to business premises
 New employees must join on the union collective – de facto compulsory unionism
 Personal grievance grounds widened
 The New Employment Relations Authority has police state powers
 The ban on replacing striking workers stays – the strike is now a lethal weapon
 Unions can paralyse a whole sector of the economy, as multi employer strikes are legalised
 Compliance costs are still exorbitant. Employers must collect union fees, pay for union leave, union education training and for employee advice on how to take a personal grievance claim!

It is radical, complex legislation. ACT MPs are giving free seminars on the Bill throughout New Zealand. For more information contact ACT:
ph (04) 470 6624,
fax (04) 473 3532
email: act@parliament.govt.nz
or visit our web site www.act.org.nz/action/employment

More Spin

Helen Clark has taken the art of political spin to a new level. Press Gallery journalists have informed the Letter that Helen Clark has taken to personally phoning a select number of reporters.

The reporters phoned are always female and only those who Clark feels will report her spin. The PM rings her favourite reporters up to three times a day.

Clark’s conduct is causing huge controversy in the Gallery.

The New Zealand Parliamentary Press Gallery is small and has an unwritten rule of never criticising an-other reporter. In the USA and the UK, media reporting on media is regarded as an important check on the Fourth Estate.

The journalists not favoured with phone calls from Clark say she is manipulating the media, because the favoured reporters are not critically evaluating government spin. They believe the reporters should be honest with the public and report they receive special ‘femme to femme’ chats.

The artfulness in Clark’s contact is that no one can prove whether these ‘off the record’ briefings have com-promised the journalist’s integrity.

The Letter has three gallery reporters named – all senior and influential- as the principal beneficiaries of Clark’s attention. Naming the journalists would irreversibly effect their reputations as impartial professionals. For this reason, the Letter will remain quiet in the meantime.

Tamihere had the votes

Usually reliable Labour sources say that John Tamihere had the votes to win the Minister of Maori Affairs ballot. Stories that it was a dead heat were Channel Nine spin.

Parekura Horomia’s position within the Maori caucus is weakened by the knowledge that he was not his colleague’s preferred choice.

All in all they are not a happy caucus.

Spectrum Flop

The radio spectrum auction as of the weekend had only raised $40 million. This is well short of the $600 million forecast and is another damning indictment of how the rest of the world sees this Government.

Letter from Wellington is faxed and emailed weekly. To subscribe, or contribute, call 04 470 6624, Fax 04 473 3532, e-mail act@parliament.govt.nz
Post to: ACT Parliamentary Office, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

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