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ACT's The Letter - Monday 8 December 2003

ACT's The Letter - Monday 8 December 2003

The Letter
Monday 8 December 2003

TRADE UNION POWER

The new Employment Relations Law Reform Bill reflects this Labour government. “Just technical amendments. Employers predicted doom and gloom over the Employment Relations Act and employment is up,” said Margaret Wilson. Actually these proposals were in the original bill. ACT did predict chaos and organised over 1000 submissions in opposition so Labour dropped them. Result – a law that business can tolerate and 90% of private sector employees are de-unionised. So the bill. This bill could have profound effects but the industries most at risk are the wharves, freezing works, forestry, transport – those parts still unionised. Trade unions have been frustrated that they have not been able to attract more members, organise small business, or stop companies from putting out to competitive tender the parts of their business that have become unionised.

The heart of the bill is a re-definition of “good faith” to be more than mutual trust and to place an obligation on the employer to respond positively and supportively to the union! Failure to do so at first results in fines up to $10,000. But a serious and sustained breach and the Employment Relations Authority can impose terms and conditions of a collective agreement (compulsory arbitration). The law requires any employer cited to attend a meeting to discuss a multi-employer collective. The new good faith provision kicks in. Failure to work “supportively” for something no employer wants, the same employment terms as a competitor, then the Authority can impose, in effect, a national award. A large employer with expensive labour costs can use this clause, with the union, to impose Auckland labour costs and conditions on, say every wharf in the country.

The bill makes it illegal for an employer to offer the same terms and conditions to non union staff. It requires employers to deduct union fees and allows union bosses to sign agreements without members having to ratify. There is nothing in the bill to promote good employment relations; it’s all to do with union power. The bill and comments will be posted on ACT’s website at http://www.act.org.nz/era on Wednesday.

CARGO CULT POLITICS

A public exhausted by Treaty settlements and a media too PC to scrutinise, has meant the $700 million Maori Fisheries Bill has been presented to parliament with almost no publicity. The bill claims to give effect to Doug Graham’s 1992 settlement of the Treaty claim for the fisheries. Graham and Maori agreed on the quantity of the claim but the Crown didn’t set out who in Maori were to receive what. Totally irresponsible. The resulting disputes and court cases were predictable. It is extraordinary the Waitangi Commission has reached any settlement and so there is a reluctance to ask questions about how fair and rational the deals are. The bill does not withstand any analysis. Treaty settlements are property claims. Maori receive compensation for loss of property rights guaranteed in the Treaty, not because they just happen to be Maori. In this bill the compensation is race based, not property. In 1840 Maori owned “a right to fish”! Maori fisheries were only as far as a waka could go. The bill gives Ngai Tahu fisheries extending to sub-Arctic waters. The principle of property is undermined first by giving iwi with no coastline a share. Then extending this to urban, detribalised Maori. It’s a race settlement.

Mr Justice McGechen, in the High Court only ten days ago, criticised the allocation formula that discriminates against urban Maori as “illogical”. The Clark of the House has ruled that the Parliamentary Select Committee can examine whether this bill fulfils the original settlement (it does not) and whether it is fair (it is not). The bill is a test for National who, at its introduction, was the only party to give unqualified support. ACT and the Greens are opposed. NZ First and United criticised the bill. Maori MPs like John Tamihere are known to be opposed. If National can free itself from its Doug Graham past and ask some tough questions, this bill could be defeated. That would be interesting.

LIBERAL WEBSITE

Readers emailed that in addition to the website we mentioned last week, there is another anti-left wing media website http://mediacow.blogspot.com. It’s worth a look – this week members of the press gallery are ranked out of a possible ten.

ON HER WAY OUT

ACT’s legal opinion that the Electoral Integrity Act’s provisions are being breached is gaining ground. Donna Awatere Huata voted twice more against ACT on Thursday and no one has seen her promised court case.

THE ECONOMY

ACT readers narrowly voted in favour of keeping interest rates steady. The Letter believes the dollar will continue to rise until US interest rates rise. Revised figures now show the US economy grew 8.2% in the quarter – fastest growth for 30 years. The Kiwi’s volatility is increasing. Once US interest rates rise the Kiwi’s fall could be spectacular. While The Letter thinks intervening in currency markets is nuts, Bill Birch’s decision to repay overseas debt when the Kiwi hit 70c was inspired. This summer may be a good time to buy US dollars.

THIS WEEK’S POLL

Should parliament pass the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill? We will send the results to the Select Committee, see http://www.act.org.nz/vote.

NEXT AUSSIE PM

Our media have failed to report the significance of the Australian Labour Party selecting Mark Latham. He may be PM next year. Polling indicates replacing Simon Crean as leader will result in a Labour victory. Latham is interesting, he is on record as saying he wants to cut the top tax rate, he favours school choice, and the ANZUS alliance. Nothing like Clark. See http://www.act.org.nz/latham for further comments.

ENDS

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