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Harawira: Employment Relations Amendment Bill

Employment Relations Amendment Bill
Hone Harawira: Spokesman on Employment
Maori Party Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau
Thursday 11 December 2008; 2pm

Eight years ago, Professor Jane Kelsey wrote a book called Reclaiming the Future in which she talked about what happened to Maori during the last recession of the late 80’s; a book which should be required reading for all Members of Parliament, as Aotearoa stares down the barrel of another recession.

And in that book, Jane Kelsey reminds us that until 1987, per head of population, there were actually more Maori working than non-Maori. And that’s just 21 years ago.

And yet the way the media paints it Maori have been basically unemployed, lazy, dole bludgers ever since Pakeha came to these shores.

Strange how much we are influenced by the media isn’t it?

But the fact remains, that just 21 years ago, there were more Maori working than Pakeha, our families were stable, our kids were healthy and crime was down.

And then of course, the crash hit, the world came crashing in on us, and in just six years, Maori unemployment went from 1% to 15%, nearly half of all 16-19 Maori ended up on the dole, and our whole world fell apart.

And now Mr Speaker, it seems we’re heading right down that same track, but that this time we’re starting from a place far worse than 21 years ago because Maori unemployment is already more than twice that of non-Maori, there are four times more Maori beneficiaries than non-Maori, and Maori society has still not fully overcome the devastating effects of the crash of 1987.

And even after nine years of great prosperity, the gaps between the rich and the poor were never closed because Labour chose to close the programme rather than close the gap.

And let all those from Labour poncing about in pious and sanctimonious rage about mana-enhancement and their perceived failings of the Maori Party hear this clearly, for the first of many times over the next few years –

* the Maori Party was born out of the treachery of the Labour Party;

* the Maori Party was born out of the betrayal of fifty years of blind loyalty to a regime which took the Maori vote and spat on the Maori hand that offered it willingly;

* the Maori Party was born out of the theft of the foreshore and seabed;

* the Maori Party took four seats from Labour in 2005

* held and increased its majorities in every one of them and

* took another seat in 2008

* the Maori Party will take the other two Maori seats in 2011, and

* the Maori Party will remain forever a party in this house, and a player in the governance of this country

* thanks to the treachery, the duplicity and the seditious betrayal of the Maori people.

So getting back to this bill and the inequalities left by Labour then, we are now considering a bill to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000 by introducing probationary periods for workers in their first ninety days on the job, and which will directly affect employment for everyone in Aotearoa, particularly Maori.

Ninety days within which a person can be dismissed without reason, and without recourse to personal grievance or other legal proceedings.

Mr Speaker, this Bill is only four pages, ten clauses, and a couple of new items.

Apparently, workers can still take legal proceedings if they’re sacked, but the bosses don’t have to give them their jobs back, so that’s a pointless exercise.

Mediation is also still available, but there’s no incentive for the employers to take people back under mediation either, so that’s a bit of a waste of time as well.

And then of course, this bill is being put through the house under urgency, without any notice that it was even in the 100 day plan, and without any public debate either, and yet we know only too well from the national outcry over the Mapp bill that this new ninety day bill will also have massive and immediate implications for workers, Maori, Pasifika, Pakeha and Tauiwi.

And so we come to this debate, acutely aware of the impending fallout which will hit workers in manufacturing, retail and construction – industries that employ high numbers of Maori and Pasifika people; and acutely aware also, of the fact that Maori already earn way less than non-Maori across all industry groups.

And we come to this debate, already aware of bad employment practices like when people are hired on a fixed-term trial, and then sacked for no valid reason, particularly Maori, young people and Pasifika women, in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Mr Speaker, this Bill talks about helping those doing it tough in the labour market, like first-time workers or long-term unemployed, the poorly-skilled and the low-waged - categories with high Maori numbers.

But just last night we got a note from Te Runanga o Nga Kaimahi Maori supporting the Maori Party’s decision to oppose the Bill, which said: “With rising unemployment the first peoples to become unemployed will be the unskilled and low waged. Maori will be a majority peoples in this group”.

And we note furthermore that while the bill talks about improving employment prospects, there is no provision for induction or training at all.

And in case people need to hear it, let me be very clear - the Maori Party is as concerned as anyone else about the need to help small and medium businesses to survive, to grow, and to flourish, and we support any initiatives that will reduce compliance and cost, and encourage employers to be positive in their outlook, but not at the cost of those who will do the work.

The Maori Party supports the right for all workers to be treated with fairness and dignity.

We simply cannot see that this bill will encourage employers to do that, and in fact, we believe this bill will actually discourage the very things that are needed - clear probationary contracts and decent employment practices.

Mr Speaker, for all these reasons, the Maori Party will be opposing this Bill.


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