Heather Roy’s Diary: Labour’s Angst At Labour Laws
Heather Roy’s Diary
At Labour Laws
Parliament spent most of the sitting week in Urgency. There were two Industrial Relations bills which ACT vigorously supported and are a victory for greater choice and flexibility in the workplace. Not surprisingly they were both hotly debated with the opposition side of the house in despair at the thought of any loss of control introduced by legislation such as their flagship Employment Relations Act.
90 Day Trial
Currently businesses with 20 employees or fewer have the ability to have a 90 day trial period for new employees, but not larger businesses. This bill, which has been the focus of CTU activity outside Hobbit protests, has passed all but its third reading and soon all employers of any size will be able if they wish to offer work on a 90 day trial. Contrary to the doomsday message of Labour and the Greens that workers will be sacked after 90 days are up (why an employer would let good employees go is beyond me) this will allow employers to ‘try out’ someone they mightn’t be sure about. Workers have always had the ability to quit a job when they want but employers haven’t had the ability to let an employee go without two warnings. The trial period makes good sense and redresses the imbalance in the worker/employer relationship.
The bill also makes changes to union access to workplaces and communications with employees during collective bargaining. More agony for the left, but what is most distressing listening to their arguments is the great distrust of employers who take the risk in operating a business and create the jobs and wealth in communities. We ACT MPs are very pleased about the progress of this bill as we pushed hard for the extension of the 90 Day Trial.
This second Industrial Relations bill, also now just awaiting its third reading before it is law, makes a number of changes to the Holidays Act. The main issue is that, by agreement, one week of an employee’s annual holidays will be able to be ‘traded’ for a cash payment to the employee. One would have thought that a basic human right had been denied the entire population if Labour was to be believed. The issue is simple. Holidays belong to employees – they are a property right. Like any other property right they should be able to be traded. In fact ACT would say why limit this to one week only. People make choices that best suit themselves and if they would rather have the money they should be able to do so. For some it may be the difference between defaulting on a loan or mortgage payment and not. Others value the time off more.
I asked the Labour party former unionists to explain the difference between cashing up a week of holiday and accumulating annual leave and cashing it up when one leaves a job? They couldn’t tell me the difference because there is none. Again the choice and flexibility that the new law will provide is a win-win situation and nothing can happen with agreement from both parties.
The bill also allows for employees to request a medical note as proof of sickness after a day’s sick leave is taken. The employer has to pay for the medical consultation – they are unlikely to do this unless they really feel that a worker is ‘swinging the lead’.
A Historic And Sexist
In 2003 Georgina Te Heuheu said the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was a “sexist relic and should be disbanded”. This week, as Acting Minister, she said she couldn’t remember saying that and it is now an “action-packed Ministry”. The ACT female contingent - Hilary Calvert and I – thought she got it right the first time, so we have called for the disbanding of the ministry now. While the portfolio is ‘between Ministers’ is the perfect time to take the plunge.
Few can tell you what the ministry actually does or what the outcomes of the work of the $5 million Ministry are. If it is succeeding in making things better for women it is hard to explain then why the recently published “Census of Women’s Participation 2010” shows that female participation in governance, professional and public life has begun to slide.
The gender pay gap is frequently reeled out as the reason we need this Ministry but it is wrong to say that women don’t receive equal pay for equal work. We have had pay equity since 1972. It is important to remember that the choices people make about paid employment are part of the equation and explains in large part why the gender pay gap exists.
Personally, I find it slightly insulting to be told that we women are incapable of fighting for ourselves and we need government to do it for us. The feminism movement proved beyond all doubt that individuals joined in a cause are much more effective at eliciting change.
Lest We Forget – Lincoln’s Gettysburg
Address (November 19 1863)
One of the best known speeches in US history, Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted Gettysburg Address was delivered in Pennsylvania at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. In just over two minutes Lincoln is said to have invoked the principles of human equality as defined by the Declaration of Independence. This redefined the Civil War as a “new birth of freedom” with government that was of the people, by the people for the people. His intention was to create a unified nation in which the rights of the state were no longer dominant.
The exact wording of the speech seems to be contested but one version is here: http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm