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National's point-scoring just doublespeak

August 15, 2006

Media Release

National’s point-scoring just doublespeak

National’s sudden concern for the work rights of Taito Phillip Field’s Thai contractors rings hollow considering their current attempts to strip rights from tens of thousands of New Zealand workers, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

While Field’s treatment of his workers was disgraceful, it pales in comparison to the treatment workers would face under National’s 90 Day No-Rights Bill.

EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little says National’s move demonstrates their double standards. “The fact that National are willing to use the plight of these two workers for political point-scoring while at the same time promoting a bill that would remove the work rights of 300,000 Kiwis shows their hypocrisy.”

Little says National’s Bill would actually harm Kiwis who are in the same position as Field’s workers. “Workers wouldn’t even be able to go to the Employment Relations Authority to get wages they were owed if National got their way.

“If National are really concerned about workers’ rights, then I challenge them to drop their No-Rights Bill. They can’t have it both ways.

“Unlike the National Party, we believe hardworking Kiwis deserve a fair deal at work. That’s why we’ll be out in Auckland later this month to tell National our work rights aren’t up for grabs.”

The major cross-union rally will take place on the 23rd August in Aotea Square and will kick off at 12.30pm. Members of the public are welcome to attend.


18 Reasons Why The 90-Day Probation Bill Is Bad For Workers

1. Probationary employment is already allowed under the current law
The Employment Relations Act (ERA) already allows for probationary employment. What it doesn’t allow for is probationary employment where you have no rights as a worker.

2. It takes rights from every single Kiwi worker
This bill doesn’t just target young workers or workers who have been out of employment – it affects everyone. The average person changes job six times in their life. That means under National’s bill, every worker will have a year and a half of their working life without any employment rights. In any 90-day period 297,000 New Zealanders change job –under National’s bill there will be nearly 300,000 Kiwis with no rights at work.

3. Some employers will use the bill to sack workers unfairly
This bill will allow some employers to create “disposable workers” on 89-day rolling contracts. As well as no job security, these workers would not qualify for holidays or sick leave.

4. It could stop workers from claiming a benefit
If National’s bill becomes law, you could be fired for no reason, and then denied help from Work and Income for 13 weeks because you were dismissed. You could also have to declare that you were fired when you apply for your next job, no matter how unfair the dismissal was.

5. Employers don’t actually have a problem with new workers
There’s no real evidence that employers have problems with ‘risky’ workers. The number of cases in the Employment Relations Authority in the first 90 days is very small.

6. Seasonal or temporary workers will have no rights - ever
For anyone employed in seasonal work or on short-term contracts, 90 days without rights might mean they never have rights at work again.

7. The bill encourages discrimination by employers
Don Brash has said “a rational employer will take care not to hire people perceived as a bit ‘risky’ – people who may be ‘too young’, or ‘too old’ or ‘too brown’”. But it is illegal to discriminate against workers based on their age or their ethnicity. Your age or the colour of you skin has nothing to do with being good at your job. Instead of opposing discrimination, National want to reward it.

8. The bill denies natural justice
If you’re dismissed from a job it should be for a fair reason. But under National’s bill a new worker cannot appeal an unfair decision. They can’t even go to mediation to try to talk about it.

9. Current employment law works well
The Employment Relations Act promotes good faith employment relationships and the use of mediation to resolve problems. It also recognises an inherent inequality between employers and workers and that some workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation.

10. It risks health and safety at work
Since the Health and Safety in Employment Act was passed, the number of workplace deaths in New Zealand has dropped significantly because workers now have a greater say in health and safety. That sort of partnership won’t work if employers can sack workers at will.

11. It leaves workers with no way to respond
In New Zealand it’s illegal to strike over the dismissal of another worker. That’s because, currently, a worker can raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal. National’s bill takes that away and leaves workers with nothing they can do.

12. It strips away rights when negotiating
Currently employers must not unduly influence workers, and they must consider the consider age, health, disability and emotional state of a worker when they negotiate an employment agreement. Under National’s bill that’s not the case. The bill also stops the Employment Relations Authority or Employment Court from enforcing any compliance or imposing any penalties.

13. Labour market flexibility will be reduced
Faced with a 90-day no-rights period, changing jobs is a big risk. Even highly-skilled workers will think twice. As a result workers will be less likely to move to the jobs where their skills are needed most.

14. Comparisons with other countries don’t stand up
Supporters of the bill say New Zealand is out of step because we don’t have compulsory no-rights probation periods. But without them New Zealand has the lowest unemployment in the OECD. Our laws should reflect New Zealand conditions, not just copy what’s being done overseas.

15. It won’t create jobs
With low unemployment, National argue their bill will help people “too risky to employ otherwise” to get a job. But they’d argue the same if unemployment was high. The reality is that a job exists because there is work to do, not because the person being asked to do it is easy to fire.

16. It is an attack on union rights
Under National’s bill it won’t be illegal to sack someone because they’re involved with a union, or to pressure someone not to join a union. During the SuperSizeMyPay campaign some fast food workers on flexible hours who were involved with the union found their hours were reduced – under National’s bill some probably would have been sacked completely.

17. National rejected this approach already
When National was in government in 1998 they considered a similar no-rights period but decided against it because they realised some employers would adopt a policy of firing workers just before they ended their probation period and that the proposal would particularly disadvantage non-Pakeha, women and young workers.

18. There is a better way
There are much better ways to promote employment opportunities for long-term unemployed or disadvantaged groups of workers. It is better to invest in worker training to ensure high wages and good employment opportunities than to remove fundamental employment rights.


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