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Workers' rights 'gone by lunchtime' if Nats get in

Workers' rights 'gone by lunchtime', if National gets in

If National gets in, it will be back to the 1990s when a previous National Government tried to destroy unions and attacked workers’ rights to create a low-wage economy.

Alliance co-leader Jill Ovens says National would allow employers to impose collective agreements on workers on a “take it or leave it” basis.

“There would be no legal requirement for employers to negotiate with unions,” she says.

National also plans to restrict unions’ rights to access worksites, making it much more difficult for workers to organise.

“Workers denied union protection in the 1990s quickly lost the extra payments that had been standard for overtime, night shifts and weekend work.

“Low-paid workers in the service industries are only now winning back penal rates, redundancy payments and other basic conditions.”

Ms Ovens says these gains have only been possible because unions have been able to get onto worksites to organise and to fight for collective agreements across industries.

“Workers have gained in confidence, even with the limited rights to strike under Labour’s Employment Relations Act. They’re sick of 2% wage increases they’ve had for the last 14 years and now, just when the average wage increase has hit 5%*, all this is at risk if Brash gets in.”

Ms Ovens says National also plans to “overhaul” the Holidays Act.

“Remember when National’s Max Bradford tried to take away workers’ holidays when he was in charge of industrial relations? Well, they’re planning to do it again,” she says.

Under a National Government, workers will not only lose hard-won protections around statutory holidays, they will lose their right to a fourth week of annual leave.

“The fourth week of annual leave, long an Alliance policy, is due to come in for all workers in 2007, but under National, it would be ‘gone by lunchtime’,” Ms Ovens says.

National will introduce a 90-day probation period during which new workers could be fired at will, and will “review” personal grievance procedures, making it easier for workers to be exploited.

Ms Ovens says the 30-day rule, introduced by the Alliance when it was in coalition with Labour, would almost certainly disappear under a National Government.

“The rule means new workers are protected for their first 30 days on the job by all the terms and conditions of the Collective Employment Agreement.

“This also protects existing workers as it means employers can’t start people on lesser conditions and undermine the Collective.”

Releasing the Alliance Workers’ Rights Policy today, Ms Ovens says the Party is calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, an end to discriminatory youth rates, a shorter working week, and the right of workers to refuse unreasonable hours.

“We want more protections for casual and part-time workers, including the ability to carry over service so they qualify for sick leave and other statutory entitlements.”

[ www.alliance.org.nz ]

The Alliance also supports workers’ right to strike in sympathy with other workers, for political reasons, and to oppose lay-offs or cuts in hours.

*Labour Cost Index, average for workers who had wage increases during the June 2005 quarter

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