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A Union of Two Workers

By Mike Heine, Prebble’s Rebels

It is indeed a scary moment when Trade Unionists have something to smile about. But they could all easily play the Cheshire Cat if Alice in Wonderland were to hold auditions right now. The Employment Relations Bill has been let loose onto society, and it's bad news for jobs, real bad.

There are some good points however. The idea of mediation is a good one, as it will help avoid the risk of strikes. Lockouts are still legal, to mine and a lot of other people's surprise. But, true to form, the bad far outweighs the good in this latest Government X-File. So it is my duty to go through these bad points one by one, and show them up for the union butt-kissing ideas they really are.

I'm going to go on about unions a lot from here on in, so I had better define what a union is. A union, according to the new Bill, is an incorporated society with a minimum of two workers. That's right, TWO WORKERS. From this, it is possible that in a business employing, say, 20 people, TWO WORKERS can go and register themselves as a union, and not bother to consider what the other eighteen workers think.

The most worrying part is the way that collective agreements are promoted over individual contracts. If a new employee comes to work, they can't just negotiate their own contract right away. They have to go along with whatever the union (our incorporated society of TWO WORKERS) has negotiated for 30 days. That's four weeks of pay and conditions that the employee has no control over. Then they get the chance to do their own thing. What I want to know is, why? This part only serves to benefit unions; it does not in any way benefit new employees.

In addition, only unions can negotiate collective contracts. A group of workers can't just get together and try to get a better deal. Where is the fairness in that? If 10 people want to get a collective deal, they have to join the union of, count them, TWO WORKERS. Of course, they can then stage a bloodless coup and take over, but that's not the point. They had to join a union to actually achieve what they wanted - and probably against their wishes.

When it comes to drawing up a new Collective Agreement, the union can initiate a new agreement 60 days before expiration of the old one, and the employer can within 40. Why? It sounds like another attempt from the Government to pander to their allies in the CTUC2W. Which stands for, of course, the Council of Trade Unions that Consist of TWO WORKERS.

Multi-employers are a hit with University staff, according to the Otago Daily Times. It seems that the Association of University Staff wants one agreement right across the country. If Massey annoy their staff, then Canterbury staff can strike too. A good way to get around the messy process of legalising sympathy strikes.

An incentive to increase union membership to THREE WORKERS is the idea where employees covered by collective agreements can take paid leave to expand their knowledge of employment-related matters. Then they can learn the thousand-year secret of the perfect employment contract. And individual employees are forever to be not told. Because they're individuals.

Employers have been complaining for a long time about the existence of both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Court. The Government has responded by putting in yet another tier of bureaucracy, the Employment Relations Authority. The Government says it will be very effective, if that's the case, then get rid of the Employment Court, or Tribunal, or both. We don't need all three!

And finally for now, if employees go on strike, the employers cannot try to avoid the financial crippling of their business by getting non-union workers to fill in, or bring in outside labour. A drawn-out strike therefore has the capability to ruin a business' reputation as well as its finances. So if employees strike, then the business, and any of its suppliers and customers, are at their mercy.

So I'll say it now and now only. Usually I am unimpressed when a Government breaks its election promises. However, I wish this Government would, and soon. They won the election by bashing businesses, and now they are going to actually carry out their threats. And that can't be good for anyone, because once this goes through, along with the ACC reforms and the tax hike, there will, very soon, be NO WORKERS.

Feedback to heimi369@student.otago.ac.nz

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