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Workers to protest Sunday against anti-worker agenda

Workers to protest Sunday against Government anti-worker agenda

Workers will gather in protest outside the National Party Conference at Sky City in Auckland on Sunday morning when John Key will give his speech outlining his extension of the 90 Day Fire at Will law and the rolling back of union access rights.

“Unfair dismissal changes are just the tip of the iceberg,” said CTU President Helen Kelly. “There is now an accumulation of attacks on workers either already implemented or in the pipeline: cuts in ACC entitlement, meal breaks, changes to holiday entitlements, removal of rights to appeal against unfair dismissal, restricted access for workers to union officials, cuts in union education funding, axing the Pay and Employment Equity Unit – the list goes on. Show me one thing this Government has done positively to improve workers’ rights or conditions.”

“The 90 Day Law is not just about young workers in their first job but all workers starting a new job. At any given time there are around 300,000 people in the first three months of a new job. Around 700,000 New Zealanders start a new job every year. Each one of those workers will be exposed to the risk of being sacked for no reason at all without any right to appeal and even clear their name.”

“To make matters worse, we believe the Government will also make it more difficult for the Employment Court to question the reason why any worker has been dismissed. There are only about 2,500 cases submitted to the Employment Relations Authority every year of which only about 1,000 make it as far as a first-stage investigative meeting. With 2 million workers in the country this shows the tiny scale of any problem with personal grievance procedure. Employers’ fears are out of proportion to the reality. Compensation to workers averages only $2,800 despite in many cases a finding by the court of unjustified dismissal.”

“The same is true of union access rights. In the decade since the current rules were introduced there have been fewer than ten instances of complaints, and all of those were against employers acting unreasonably. John Key said his government was a solutions-focused one. I ask him to show me the problem to which restricting union access is a solution. There isn’t one and he knows it.”

“Previous experience of employers defining ‘reasonable’ access to workplaces for unions involved keeping officials waiting for hours on end, agreeing a date and then cancelling it when the official arrived, making them meet individually with members outside the employer’s office, and many other tactics to make the legitimate task of the official next to impossible. The same will happen again, leading to disputes, disruption and a collapse in productivity.”

“The spurious claim that the personal grievance laws impede employment is demolished by the facts. Without the assistance of the 90 Day Law unemployment fell consistently from 162,000 in 1999 to 17,465 in May 2008 before the onset of recession. In June 2010, after 15 months of the 90 Day ‘incentive’ to small employers, there were 62,085 unemployed and growing. As a job creation scheme it must be marked a spectacular ‘fail’.”

“Rather than increasing employment opportunities, the stain on a worker’s character resulting from a dismissal and the impact on their confidence of such arbitrary action will actually make it harder for them to find work.”

“We are not talking about the fair appraisal of an employee’s ability to do a job, and an honest and open assessment that perhaps someone is not up to its demands. That is the purpose of probationary periods, but what we are talking about here is the wholesale removal of any right to contest dismissal. That opens the door to all kinds of abuse and we have seen plenty of examples of it.”

“The Government is treating employment regulation differently from other regulation. Would we expect them to say that a new restaurant is exempt from hygiene regulations for the first three months they are open, or that food safety inspectors required the owner’s permission to inspect their kitchens? These are fundamental requirements, and the same is true of the right to appeal unfair dismissal or the right of workers to meet with their union officials.”

“Employers at large didn’t ask for this law to be expanded and most of them say it will do nothing to improve their businesses. In the New Zealand Herald Mood of the Boardroom survey published on 1 July, nearly two thirds of companies surveyed said that extending the 90 day provisions would have no effect on their productivity and less than half of them said reducing the complexity of personal grievance procedure would have any effect either.”

ENDS

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