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Te Reo o Te Tai Tokerau: Mapp Bill

29 August 2006

Te Reo o Te Tai Tokerau
A column by Hone Harawira
Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau

Last week, the Maori Party caucus decided we would not support the 90-Day Employment Probation Bill introduced by National MP, Wayne Mapp, and that we would vote against it when it comes back to the House.

This was a big decision for us because our vote is critical to the passage of the Bill. In fact, without the Maori Party vote this Bill is a dead duck.
The Bill first crossed our desk the day it was due to be introduced into the House so we didn’t have a lot of time to think about it or get any background on it. Because of that, my caucus colleagues voted it through to select committee to get more information. It's common knowledge now that I opposed this Bill from the outset because it threatened to “suspend workers rights for the first ninety days.”

The Maori Party wanted to hear all sides of the arguments, and over the past few months we received hundreds of submissions, spoke to hundreds of people from all over the country, looked at the current legislation and analysed the arguments. Our decision was based on the following arguments: The Bill would take away workers’ rights, including, the right to be dismissed for a good reason, the right to be paid for work done and the right to redress for bad treatment.

The most vulnerable would suffer: young people with few skills; the tens of thousands of unemployed who want a job; the many thousands in low-skill jobs with no bargaining strength; and the hundreds of thousands in work who want to change jobs. And of course Maori, who make up a large sector of the unemployed, and the low-skilled workforce would be particularly vulnerable to this legislation.

New Zealand already has a good record for fair employment relationships, and the Mapp Bill would undermine the Employment Relations Act, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

More importantly for me though, is my own experience.

I have been an employer for the last twenty years and there have been times when I would have dearly loved to sack some people in their first ninety days. But I know that good businesses are built on good people, good teamwork and good relationships.

I also know too that, for all their failings, unless we have unions fighting for workers rights, our society will very quickly slip into the third world working conditions that we tutt, tutt about when we see it on television.

This Bill is a recipe for the slave days and we’re all better off without it.


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