Labour law

Since it is Labour day, let’s slay some union myths

Rodney Hide did it yesterday in the herald on Sunday, but since it is Labour day let’s look at the myth of the 8 hour working day the unions claim as their great achievement.

[Today] is Labour Day. Once again we will endure the annual claptrap that unions are great and won for us the eight-hour day. Without unions we would be working 24/7. It’s nonsense.

The Labour Day bunk dates from the start of European settlement. Carpenter Samuel Parnell arrived at what we now call Petone aboard the Duke of Roxburgh.

The Duke was just the third migrant ship to Wellington. Parnell was newly married, 30 years old and had travelled from London in search of a better life.

He found it.

On-board was shipping agent George Hunter, who asked Parnell to build him a store. Parnell agreed but on the condition that he work only eight hours a day. Hunter wasn’t happy. Eight-hour days weren’t the custom in London, but he had little choice: there were only three carpenters in Wellington.

Hence was born the eight-hour day. The practice caught on. For more than 100 years we have celebrated the eight-hour day as a victory for trade unionism. We know it as Labour Day which, on the fourth Monday of every October, is a public holiday.

We hear every year of the union movement’s long, hard struggle. It wasn’t easy winning the eight-hour day, we are repetitively told.

Without unions, greedy employers would have us working every hour, every day.

Read more »

Fenton wrong on contract labour

Darien Fenton has gone out to the media attacking modern work practices:

Employers are increasingly using temporary or contract staff in place of permanent positions, according to a new report.

Labour says that’s bad news because the workers have no rights and no defence against arbitrary dismissal.

MP Darien Fenton is citing a report by recruitment agency Hays which says 64 per cent of employers now use temporary or contract staff.

And 18 per cent say they intend increasing their use of those staff.

“Contractors have no employment rights at all, including no minimum wage, no holidays and no rights to protection against unfair dismissal,” Ms Fenton said.

“At its worst, temporary workers are used to replace good, well-paying jobs with agencies who employ workers on minimum wage to do essentially the same work as those they work alongside.”

Ms Fenton says even more disturbing is that some employers admitted using temporary and contract work as a means to assess ongoing employment.

“The 90-day trial period was supposed to provide a way for evaluating suitability of employment, yet employers are continuing to dream up new devices to avoid the obligations of employment law and put the risk back on workers,” she said. Read more »

Map of the Day

Firing Cost (Weeks of Wages)

This map shows firing cost, which is the cost of advanced notice requirements, severance payments, and penalties due when terminating a redundant worker, expressed in weekly wages. One month is recorded as 4 1/3 weeks.

We need less civil servants, not the same number paid more

In what has become typical of Labour in the last 15 years, they have wanted to look after the state sector unionised workers before anyone else. I guess it makes logical sense when the vast majority of your support comes from affiliated unions…and the PSA is one of your recruiting grounds.

David Cunliffe has much to owe to the unions for supporting his leadership bid and now it is pay back with him promising $10,000 pay rises for the lowest paid civil servants.

The Government’s lowest-paid workers are being promised a $10,000-a-year pay rise under a Labour government.

However, the expected cost to the taxpayer of its proposed living wage remains unclear, with Labour claiming extending it to the core public service would cost $30 million a year and National putting it at $68m.

David Cunliffe reiterated his commitment to the wage yesterday and used one of his first major speeches as Labour leader to outline his vision for his first 100 days in government, if elected next year. ? Read more »

Auctioning the unemployed on Trade Me

Rodney Hide reprises his article of last week about auctioning the unemployed on Trade Me:

Last week?s column to auction the unemployed on Trade Me generated great discussion across the internet. Some thought it a good idea, many opposed it, there were many good suggestions and there were some sharp criticism.

Let?s consider the major criticisms.

The first was one of the scheme?s political practicality. ?Which government or political party in power would have the balls to introduce the scheme?? The key aspect is how accepted the reform is at the next election and how much pain is endured getting there.

There?s no doubt the opposition parties would have a field day on the Warstler scheme?s introduction. There would be the usual allegations of ?slave labour? and the sale of body parts, but then what?

By and large his suggestion passed un-noticed as the media focussed on important things like John Key’s mother’s best friend’s kid, studiously ignoring this and David Shearer’s dodgy offshore bank account.

The 50,000 get work and get paid. How do you campaign against that? Within two years we would struggle to recall that we ever did things differently.

The second identified problem was the impact on the already employed. Certainly, there would be a short-run effect in shifting 50,000 people into work. How much I do not know. But I suspect it would be hardly noticeable.

I can?t imagine a mass layoff of workers on the minimum wage so that employers can bid each week for someone on the dole. Employers prefer the staff they have to people they don?t know and the 50,000 will undoubtedly be mostly employed doing jobs that now aren?t being done.

Besides, a significant black market already exists in jobs being done by people claiming the dole. That would cease.

Not a single person has shown how it couldn’t work. Mostly those opposed just hurl personal abuse as is often the way with the left.

There were a number of comments with the following general theme: ?Less focus on dole bashing and more on upskilling, you right-wing tool.?

But for the unemployed, especially the young and unemployed, there is no greater upskilling than being in the paid workforce, being productive, and learning to do a good job.

For most, it?s less about upskilling and more about getting into work and learning to work.

Jchaa336 declared, ?there is no way in hell, ever, that I am going to work 40 hours for 40 extra bucks. Come on!? I don?t think Jchaa336 understands the scheme. If the unemployed refuse too many jobs their dole is cut. That?s the point.

The unemployment benefit is not without obligations and the real issue is not Jchaa336 refusing to work but taxpayers refusing to support him or her to do nothing.

One commenter opposed the scheme ?because it might work. Creating a functioning market for peasants is not a good idea?.

I don?t think the unemployed are peasants. And the entire point is to create a functioning market for the unemployed. It?s the lack of a ?functioning market? that has people unemployed and shut of contributing to society.

Sadly there is an element in society who think that it is the government’s?responsibility?to up-skill the indolent. Name me one thing the government does efficiently. If the government is the answer it must have been a bloody stupid question.

One persistent and understandable concern is the potential for fraud. I could employ my sister, for example, and she could employ me. We could agree that we each do nothing. Or employers could pay workers under the table and thereby keep the full government subsidy.

Of course, there is considerable fraud now. And many on the unemployment benefit are already doing jobs under the table. The question is whether the Warstler scheme would increase the fraud or decrease it.

It would seem to me that the scheme would dramatically reduce fraud.

First, the numbers of unemployed not working would diminish to close to zero. Second, the transactions would be transparent and public on the internet. Third, bad and dodgy employers would be exposed on the internet.

The Warstler scheme has survived its first test: there?s been no knock-down criticism from the commentators.

Exactly…not a peep of any well thought out (peer-reviewed even) opposition to Rodney’s idea.

About time

Cabinet is finally considering some Labour law changes. I sincerely hope that they dont listen to Kate Wilkinson’s claims that the “industry” wants the retention of Section 6A…it could get very embarrassing.

The cosy relationship between the SFWU and the BSC needs some sunlight. Kate Wilkinson claims she has consulted with industry yet records show that the BSC has only met the minister on just a few?occasions. meanwhile investigations into the BSC and their financial accounts show that they may well be operating in a manner not unlike the Maritime Union and Meatworkers Union, failing to consolidate their operations up.

Section 6a is a travesty and should be repealed. The cosy rort between Labour, the unions and the BSC will be exposed.

Cabinet will today consider controversial changes to labour laws including the future of a provision protecting vulnerable workers when their work is job is restructured.

Under proposals signalled by Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson in May, the legislation is expected to include allowing employers to walk away from collective bargaining, opt out of multi-employer negotiations, deduct the pay of partially striking workers and initiate collective bargaining.

Workers will be able to ask for flexible work arrangements without having to wait until they have been employed for six months.

Labour claims the changes will drive down wages.

It is understood the legislation being considered today will also include the Government’s response to a review of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.

The provision, introduced by the former Labour government, provides ”continuity of employment” for groups of low-paid employees such as cleaners when a business is restructured. It prevents workers having their pay and conditions reduced for the same job, or being replaced by cheaper contractors.

Labour’s industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton said she was concerned the Government would limit the provision to large workplaces.

Hide on Unions

Rodney Hide has giving the unions a good old fashioned bashing in the NBR:

Unions derive their bully-boy power from Parliament.

It used to be they got their power from good old-fashioned thuggery.

But now Parliament saves them the effort.

Parliament has given unions power that no other organisations enjoy.

They have these powers simply so they can abuse them.

Take s97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. It serves to turn ordinary strike action into a lethal weapon. The section prevents employers using replacement workers in the event of a strike.

It has never existed in statute before, even going back to the dim, dark days of industrial action.

Employers have always historically been entitled to bring in replacement labour. It makes sense.

It puts a limit on the ability of unions to abuse the strike process. And enables businesses to stay afloat.

Unions are ably assisted by Comrade Kate who has been approached many, many timed over s97 and still refuses any action on it. S(7 is an evil pice of legislation allowing shameless union bullying.

Besides, whose business is it? I have no trouble with anyone choosing to strike. But I also think that employers should be free to bring in replacement workers.

But that?s not how it works in New Zealand now. S97 adds some big muscle to union bullying power.

It?s a power that unions have historically never had in New Zealand and unions in other countries don?t enjoy. The only exceptions are Japan, Korea and Mexico.

The Employment Contracts Act 1991 never had such a provision. Nor did its predecessors, the Labour Relations Act 1987, the Industrial Relations Act 1973, the Industrial Relations Act 1949, the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1925 and 1908.

S97 is an entirely new development in industrial law. It can cripple any business and enables unions to blackmail bosses.

Unions only exist through blackmail.

The Dairy Union went on strike in 2009 while bargaining with Open Country Cheese. The union was seeking initially a 45% wage-cost increase and later between 15% and 25%.

At the time they were already earning twice the average wage and had a wage-cost per tonne of product twice that of other plants.

Open Country Cheese brought in outside workers.

If they hadn?t, a million litres a day of milk would have been dumped on land, cows would have been dried off, causing harm to the herds and a seasonal loss of income to farmers and the region of up to $70 million.

The case went to the Court of Appeal. It held that Open Country Cheese was wrong to use other workers from within the same wholly owned group of companies and farmer volunteers. That?s how s97 operates.

It?s a shocking section that gives shocking power to unions.

Extortion, blackmail, standover…all legal under our current employment laws.But will National act? Not while Comrade Kate is Minister of Labour.

The National-led government should just get rid of it.

Labour is beholden to union muscle and would have no choice but to fight the change.

That would suit National. Middle voters tempted to swing back to Labour would see exactly what Labour stands for and would stick with National.

Middle voters, especially in the present economic climate, don?t believe for a second that unions should be able to shoot down a business at will.

National should go for it. It would make Labour squirm. And it would be a good shot in the arm for business.

Good policy is seldom good politics. But getting rid of section 97 is both.

Farrar on Industrial Relations Ctd

David Farrar?s bold assumptions about the article on the AFFCO dispute managed to rile up a senior IR lawyer who has contacted the tipline ? with the request to remain anonymous because her claims about judicial activism could cost her cases when she is next in front of the employment court.

Affco?s employment contract commented on by David Farrar is still seen as reasonably aggressive but it is there to counter an increasing active and aggressive Employment Authority/Court where personal grievances are lost by employers on the ratio of 8 in every 10. Employers knowing this will often concede outside of court as even if they win it costs them more in time and legal fees to fight the case than to settle, tilting the balance heavily in favour of employees.

This type of clause has its roots in a move to adopt a “belt and braces” approach to termination rights. The Employment Court has awarded so many PGs against an employer on the basis that their ability to end an employment relationship was unclear, ambiguous or questionable. The onus is on the employer to show they have the right to sack the employee, and if there is ambiguity is always the employer who will lose.

The more you can put that doubt to bed the stronger your case in any PG for wrongful termination. Further the greater clarity and certainty you can provide around the respective rights of employees/employers (as a irreconcilable difference clause purports to do) the less likely you are to raise frivolous claims.

This clause is a ?legitimate response to an increasingly interventionist and active employment bench. A precautionary approach to the uncertainty that current employment law provides, and the cost to employers of having to sack dud employees who then take personal grievance claims.

No surprise here. Labour introduces industrial relation laws that allow its activist judiciary to impose more unnecessary costs on employers, slowing economic growth. This is I understand the underlying issue that the Ports of Auckland faced, an activist judge willing to test prior case law to prove a personal point.

This will sort the public sector unions for you

In the US union busting laws are being promulgated as States seek to reign in out of controls state sector unions. One such law is the Employee Rights Act:

For the first time in decades, union power is under serious threat. Indiana is on the verge of becoming the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law, liberating workers from being forced to join a union. New Hampshire may also adopt some form of right-to-work. Murmurs about a national right-to-work law are growing. Public sector unions continue to face efforts to curb their power and trim their lavish contracts.

And now there?s a shrewd new challenge to organized labor: the Employee Rights Act. It would take labor law in a new direction. Unlike right-to-work statutes, which help businesses escape unionization, the ERA would protect union workers from high-handedness and abuses of power by their union leaders.

The measure was formulated by Richard Berman, a Washington lobbyist and longtime foe of excessive union power in labor relations and politics. It?s been passionately embraced by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and 20 other Republican senators. In the House, its chief sponsor is Tim Scott of South Carolina, a star of the freshman class of 87 Republicans.

Sounds promising, but what does it do?

What the ERA would do is entirely sensible. The most striking of its seven reforms would force unions to face a ?recertification? election every three years, allowing workers to decide if they want to stick with their current union. Hatch says that ?less than 10 percent? of union members today have ever voted on whether to have or keep a union. Another part of the measure would prevent union leaders from ?intimidating or coercing employees from exercising their rights, including the right to decertify the union.?

That?s strong medicine. The rest of the ERA would guarantee secret ballot elections, give members the right to refuse to back their union?s political operations, require at least 40 days to hear both sides before voting to certify or decertify a union, require a secret ballot vote before a strike, and make it a crime for unions to use violence or threats to coerce members.

Notice the emphasis of all seven provisions. It?s on the individual rights of employees, not on economic concerns. Right-to-work laws let workers decline to join a union, but they are usually promoted as a tool for attracting business to a state and increasing jobs. By the way, 108 economists have endorsed the act.

Before the Nervous Nellie wets of National’s caucus have conniptions as to how this would be?received, look at the polling on each of the seven provisions.

Berman hired the Opinion Re-search Corporation to survey union and nonunion households to gauge the ERA?s popularity. Only the secret ballot requirement drew less than 80?percent support. It was backed by 78 percent of both union and nonunion households.

Here?s the most surprising result: Eighty-four percent of nonunion and 83 percent of union households favor an election every three years to recertify or jettison the union. And 85?percent of nonunion and 88?percent of union households back the need for a majority of members to approve a strike.

That would sort out the Maritime Union for sure.