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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 10. A New Government’s Response

11 November 2012 4 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 9. Conclusion

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Hopefully someone in Labour, the Greens, NZ First, and/or Mana, is  keeping careful track of every one of these nasty, neo-liberal,  “reforms”.

Once in power, a Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana Coalition must act decisively to undo and repeal every single one of these “reforms”.

Not one strand  of their repugnant legislation must be allowed to stand – not one.

Only a fool could still believe that National’s labour “reforms” are in any way designed to raise wages. They are not.

The true intent of   so-called “labour market reforms” is to make the workforce more “flexible” (exploitable); undermine the last vestiges of Unionisation; and drive down wages so that our workforce is a cheaper option than Australia.

It is a plan to turn this country into an “anglocised China” or “Southseas Mexico“.

The good news is that undoing National’s legislative obscenities should be a reasonably easy task.

The harder job will be for an incoming government to enact new legislation to enshrine workers’ rights forever. We simply cannot afford  National coming to power ever few years and repeating their destructive policies  against workers.

It’s one thing for Middle Class New Zealand to have a rush of blood to their heads and vote for a National “government” that will eventually end up screwing them over. But workers should not have to pay for this kind of Middle Class masochism.

Not if we want,

  • fairness in the workplace
  • real high wages (not National’s fantasy-variety)
  • and young New Zealanders encouraged to stay here, instead of migrating to Australia

We went through this batshit in the 1990s and now we’re going through it all again now.

Enough already.

It’s time for sanity to prevail.

Otherwise…

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Addendum 1

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Date: Sunday, 11 November 2012 3:11 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Industrial relations, raising wages,  and worker’s rights in this country
To: Darien Fenton “Darien.Fenton@parliament.govt.nz”,
    Denise Roche “Denise.Roche@parliament.govt.nz”,
    Brendan Horan “brendan.horan@parliament.govt.nz”,
    John Minto “Hone.Harawira@parliament.govt.nz”

Kia ora Darien, Denise, Brendan, and John,
I have blogged a critique of John Key’s pledge to raise wages for New Zealand workers. John Key has made numerous statements in 2008, ’09, ’10, ’11, and this year, endorsing wages being raised.
I have matched reality with his rhetoric, and comes up with the following results, here, with these eleven short blogposts;
John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-preface/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-1-the-hobbit-law/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-2-the-90-day-employment-trial-period/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-3-ports-of-auckland-dispute/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-4-rest-home-workers/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 5. The Minimum Wage
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-5-the-minimum-wage/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 6. Youth Rates
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-6-youth-rates/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 7. Part 6A – stripped away
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-7-part-6a-stripped-away/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 8. An End to Collective Agreements
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-8-an-end-to-collective-agreements/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 9. Conclusion
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-9-conclusion/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 10. A New Government’s Response
http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-10-a-new-governments-response/

As this country’s natural coalition-government-in-waiting, I would welcome your comments on the critiques I have written. Specifically, please outline your Party’s policies,
1.  regarding National’s track record thus far,
2. your policies regarding the issues I have raised,
3. what aspects of National’s so-called “reforms” you intend to repeal.
Any response you provide will be added to my above article as an addendum to “A New Government’s Response”, with full acknowledgement of your Party, spokesperson, etc.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter and I look forward to your reply,

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy,
Blogger

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Previous related blogposts

The betrayal of our young people

“I was wrong about rising unemployment” – Blogger

Additional to “The Hobbit” Law

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Labour vows to repeal Hobbit law

Additional

Parliament: Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A – the 90 Day Trial Period (March 2009)

Fairfax: Low wages ‘advantage’ for NZ – English (10 April 2011)

Fairfax: ‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’ (17 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Aussie wage gap now 40% – Brash (7 Nov 2011)

TV3:  Raising minimum wage won’t cost jobs – Treasury (10 Nov 2011)

Fairfax: Jackson pulls back from port comments (12 March 2012)

Fairfax: Calls to end shipping lines’ price fixing (25 April 2012)

TV3: Aus wage rise increases gap with NZ: Union (2 June 2012)

Otago Daily Times: Minimum wage increase: results may surprise (22 Aug 2012)

That was then…

NZ Herald: Salary and wage rates increase by record amount (5 May 2008)

NZ Herald: The miracle of full employment (7 April2008)

This is now…

Fairfax: Wage rises lowest since 2001 (3 Feb 2010)

TV3: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high  (8 Nov 2012)

Other blogs

No Right Turn: Turning a blind eye to exploitation

The Standard: John Key Selling (out) New Zealand

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 9. Conclusion

11 November 2012 4 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 8. An End to Collective Agreements

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Thus far we have seen no concrete  indications that John Key is implementing his  promises in 2008, 2009, 2010,  2011, and this year,   to raise wages.

Instead, Key and his cronies in National have been studiously  implementing law-changes that will inevitably result in the opposite;  a dismantling of hard-won working conditions; an  undermining of worker-representation in negotiations, and an eventual lowering of wages .

The only conclusion  that can be made is that Key has wilfully deceived voters. His public statements advocated raising wages whilst in back-rooms, he and  National Party ministers have been contriving to achieve a diametrically opposite agenda.

It serves National’s undisclosed agenda to lower wages, to attract international ‘investment’, and to allow corporations to increase profits on the backs of low-paid workers.

The process has already begun. As Bill English said on TVNZ’s  Q+A, last year,

Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

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we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.” – Bill English, 10 April 2011

See: Low wages ‘advantage’ for NZ – English

The result was wholly predictable, and the headlines tell the story,

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How does this raise wages?

Answer: it doesn’t.

Next and final chapter: 10. A New Government’s Response

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 8. An End to Collective Agreements

11 November 2012 6 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 7. Part 6A – stripped away

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8. An End to Collective Agreements

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National’s covert agenda to resurrect the Employment Contract’s Act involves the following,

  1. The Employment Relations Authority can declare in certain circumstances that collective bargaining has ended.
  2. A duty of good faith does not require the parties to conclude a collective agreement.
  3. Employers can opt out of multi-employer bargaining.
  4. Partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action.
  5. Removing the 30-day rule that forces non-union members to take union terms and conditions.

Items 1, 2, and 3 have only one purpose; to ensure that an employer can walk away from the negotiating table; scrap any collective agreement; and re-hire workers on individual contracts.

It is solely designed to destroy unions once and for all.

Had Items 1, 2, and 3 been in force this year, POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) would have been able to abandon the bargaining table after a mock “negotiation”; locked out any worker on strike; and issued take-it-or-leave-it individual contracts.

The worker’s negotiating agent,  the Maritime Union, would have been dis-empowered and destroyed.

Only the current provisions of good-faith bargaining in the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Employment Relations Authority were able to stop POAL from unilaterally walking away from the negotiating table. (On 27 March this year, the Employment Court issued a judgement severely admonishing POAL for their actions, and ordering them to return to negotiations.)

The same happened when Talleys locked out workers. Talleys was demanding that workers quit their Union and sign individual contracts.

See previous blogpost: If anyone wants to see the Working Class

See previous blogpost: Help Talley’s Affco Workers!

See previous blogpost: Immovable and Irresistable forces – combined!!

See previous blogpost: The Talleys Strikes Back

All this will change – and not fot the better -  if National proceeds with implementation of their draconian law-changes.

They will serve the purposes of business – whilst leaving employees totally vulnerable and at the mercy of their employers.

This is Third World banana republic stuff.

This will drive wages down, and will send more New Zealanders packing for Australia.

Item 4 is self-evident, and is designed to dissuade employees from strike action. Using financial pressure to control workers would be the inevitable outcome of this law-change.

Again, it would leave workers totally vulnerable to employer demands.

Item 5 – What better way to prevent workers from learning about the benefits of union-membership – than by denying workers the benefits of Union-won  conditions? It means that an employer can hire staff at lower pay, or sub-standard conditions.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson’s own cabinet paper confirmed that the 30 Day Rule  would permit  employers to offer lower wages to new workers than those on the collective agreement. What other reasonwould there be for such a radical  change in our labour laws?

With unemployment now at 7.3%, more than 175,000 people are now competing for fewer and fewer jobs. If National proceeds with it’s miserable labour “reforms” it will simply result in unemployed job-seekers willing to accept lower and lower pay, and reduced conditions. It will become a dog-eat-dog labour market.

This may satisfy free market fanatics, but it does nothing to fulfill Dear Leader’s pledges to raise wages, or create new jobs.

As usual, Key promises one thing whilst his Minister work quietly in the background to achieve the polar-opposite.

In polite society, this is called duplicity.

How does this raise wages, one may rightly ask?

Next chapter: 9. Conclusion

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 7. Part 6A – stripped away

11 November 2012 5 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 6. Youth Rates

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7. Part 6A – stripped away

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One of the most far-reaching aspects of National’s covert agenda to make the country’s workforce  “more flexible” (translation; more exploitable)  is their stated intention to remove Part 6A  of the Employment Relations Act (ERA),  which continues (or transfers under similar conditions and pay) the employment of  low-paid employees such as caretakers, cleaners, catering workers, hospital orderlies and laundry workers,  after a business is restructured or sold.

See: Part 6A – Continuity of employment if employees’ work affected by restructuring

Part 6A gives vulnerable, low-paid workers, the right to keep their jobs on the same terms of employment when  transferred to the new contractor.

See: Labour law changes announced

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has assured the public that this law-change will apply only to  small and medium-sized businesses with less than 20 employees.

Pardon me? Didn’t they say the same thing for the 90 Day Trial Period law? Oh yes, I believe they did,

Trial employment periods for up to 90 days for workplaces with fewer than 20 employees will be available from April 2009.” – Kate Wilkinson,  11 December 2008

See: National policy – 90-day trial period to provide job opportunities

Once National’s so-called “reforms” were bedded in, they changed it, implementing the policy they they had wanted all along,

The 90-day trial period is to be extended to enable all employers and new employees to have the chance to benefit from it.” – Kate Wilkinson,  18 July 2010

See: National Policy – 90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

Sneaky, these Tory politicians. Ya cain’t take your eyes offa them, even fer a minute, Jethro!

This blogger has zero doubt that the same means of  removing Part 6A will first apply to small business with fewer than 20 staff – and then later (a year?) will be extended to all employers.

Once Part 6A is removed from the lawbooks, the lowest-paid workers in our communities will be vulnerable. A new employer will  be able to re-write their contracts at whim; reduce  their pay; change their conditions, or dismiss them altogether. There are many such small business and the impact on their workers could be severe.

Are we detecting a common them with National’s labour “reforms”?

Green Party industrial-relations spokeswoman, Denise Roche, was 100% on-the nose when she described these – and other “reforms” as,

This decision is straight from the Bill Birch era of industrial relations.”

This is indeed a return to the Employment Contracts Act – by stealth. National is too gutless to face the country by honestly presenting a manifesto returning to the ECA.

Remind us,  Mr Prime Minister, how scrapping Part 6A  will raise wages, as per your promises?

Next chapter: 8. An End to Collective Agreements

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 6. Youth Rates

11 November 2012 6 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 5. The Minimum Wage

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6. Youth Rates

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When Labour was elected into government in 1999, replacing the highly unpopular Shipley-led National administration, one of their first actions was to radically reform the  Youth Rate,

  1. From 2001 to 2008 the adult minimum wage applied to employees aged 18 years and over. Prior to that, the adult minimum wage only applied to those aged 20 years and over.
  2. From 1 April 2008, the adult minimum wage applies to employees aged 16 years and over, who are not new entrants or trainees.
  3. The youth minimum wage applied to employees aged 16 and 17 years. From 1 April 2008, the youth minimum wage was replaced with a minimum wage for new entrants, which applies to some employees aged 16 or 17 years.
  4. The training minimum wage was introduced in June 2003.

See: Dept of Labour – Previous minimum wage rates

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It did not appear to unduly impact on unemployment, which consistantly tracked downward in the 2000s, until the down-turn caused by the Global Financial Crisis began to impact on our economy, in 2007/08.

On 9 October, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced that National intended to introduce a new Youth Rate, to take effect in April, next year. The rate would be set at $10.80 an hour – compared to the minimum rate of $13.50 an hour currently, and would include 16 to 19 year olds.

As Scoop.co.nz reported,

That equates to $10.80 an hour, or $432 before tax for a 40-hour week. From April next year, the ‘Starting Out Wage’ will apply to 16- and 17-year-olds in the first six months of a job, to 18- and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after spending more than six months on a benefit, or 16 to 19-year-olds in a recognised industry training course.”

See: NZ teens face $10.80 an hour youth wage rate

It is doubtful if National’s Youth Rate will actually create new jobs. More likely, a drop in youth wages will simply create more ‘churn’ in employment/unemployment numbers.

As David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, inadvertently revealed,

Without an incentive an employer with a choice between an experienced worker and an inexperienced worker will choose experience every time.”

See: Starting-out wage will help young people onto job ladder

So there’s no new job for the  younger worker – s/he is merely displacing an older worker. Which probably results in  older workers joining the migration to Australia.

End result; a loss of skill and experience for New Zealand, and a gain for our Aussie cuzzies.

Nice one, Mr Key. Remind us when you took on the role of staff recruiter for Australia?

On top of this, we have this bizarre rationale from Kim Campbell, CEO of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, who is arguing that young people should be paid less because they have less to pay for. I kid you not.

She said,

Remember these people are not raising a family or running a household on this money –nobody expects them to – but it does give them some money to get started on.”

Campbell’s remark are offensive on several levels.

Firstly, National’s intention to return to  Youth Rates for 18 and 19 year olds, as well as 16 and 17 year olds, is simply unreasonable. These people are  young adults, and those studying  at  polytech and  University Students will soon be earning less,  even while having to pay Student fees; course-costs; and living expenses like rent, food, power, and other financial committments.

Secondly, 18 and 19 year old are as able to have families as their older counterparts.

Thirdly, by what logic is it of  Ms Campbell’s business  that “these people are not raising a family or running a household on this money“?! It’s none of her damned business what 18 and 19 year olds spend their wages on.

Conversely, does that mean Ms Campbell will encourage companies to pay a higher,  living wage,to those workers who do happen to have families?!

Yeah, right.

If  National has a secret agenda to motivate more young people to head overseas, such a plan will succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

18 and 19 years olds – old enough to get married; old enough to get drunk; old enough to get killed in a warzone – but not old enough to be paid the same adult rate as a 20 year old?

National should take note;  it’s true that 16 and 17 year olds can’t vote.

But 18 and 19 year olds can – and do. I bet they just can’t wait to vote at the next election.

And precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chapter: 7. Part 6A – stripped away

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Addendum

In June last year  Prime Minister John Key said the prospect of a new youth rate was unlikely,

“I don’t think there’s a high probability. Whether we’d actually bother embarking on that it’s far too early to say.”

Source: Govt reintroduces youth wage

Ten months and one election later, preparations are under way to legislate.

Is ten months “to early to say“?

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 5. The Minimum Wage

11 November 2012 4 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

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5. The Minimum Wage

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From 2004 to 2008, the minimum wage rose from $9 to $12 – an increase of $3 in four years.

From 2009 to 2012, the minimum wage rose from $12 to $13.50 – an increase of $1.50 over three years.

See: Dept of Labour – Previous minimum wage rates

Last year, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, and Mana campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $15 ($16 for Mana).

When a worker at a fast-food outlet asked John Key to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, he  rejected the proposal, saying,

It will go up, but it won’t go up straight away.”

See:  Raising minimum wage won’t cost jobs – Treasury

Key’s right. At the glacial speed that National increases the minimum wage, it will take another three years to deliver $15 an hour.

Yet it took only a couple of years to implement two massive taxcuts that gave hundreds, thousands,  of dollars a week, to the top income earners.

Priorities, eh?

The real insult is that  Key and English both admit that the minimum wage is difficult to live on.

Key said,

Look, I think it would be very difficult for anyone to do that.”

See:  Ibid

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on?

BILL ENGLISH:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL ENGLISH:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.

See: TVNZ’s Q+A: Transcript of Bill English, David Cunliffe interview

The Department of Labour claimed  a rise in the minimum wage  would cost 6,000 jobs.

But Treasury disagreed, saying,

This has not been true in the past. The balance of probabilities is that a higher minimum wage does not cost jobs.”

Raising the minimum wage would certainly benefit SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises), as low-income earners spend their entire wages on goods and services. Any rise in paying wages should be offset by increasing till-takings with customers spending more.

So it appears blatantly obvious that no good reason exists not to raise the minimum wage.

After all, in 2009 and 2010, National gave away far more in tax cuts for the rich.

And precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chapter: 6. Youth Rates

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

11 November 2012 7 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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4. Rest Home Workers

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Amongst the lowest paid workers in this country, Rest Home caregivers earn around $13.61 an hour – just barely above the minimum wage of $13.50.

Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor, found out first-hand what the job entailed,

Spending hours on her feet, lifting, hoisting, feeding, bathing, dressing and toileting her charges took its toll – and for just $14 an hour, the Human Rights Commission’s equal opportunities commissioner compares it to a form of modern-day slavery.

“The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people,” she said.

“Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of life”.”

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When this was point out to John Key, the following exchange took place on morning TV,

Key acknowledged there were problems with rural rest homes workers paying for their own travel, effectively reducing their wage below the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour.

“Travel is one of those areas where we are looking at what we can do,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

However, the Government could not afford to give DHBs the $140 million required to enable rest homes to pay their staff more.

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash”.”

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But there seemed plenty of cash – taxpayer’s money – to give politicians some fairly generous salary increases,

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And a “lack of money” certainly didn’t stop the country from spending over $200 million of public money on a sporting tournament,

Budget blowouts have pushed public spending on the Rugby World Cup well above $200 million – without counting $555 million in stadium upgrades and $39 million in direct losses from hosting the tournament. “

See: Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m

If  Key was serious about raising wages, he should clearly have made the lowest paid his Number One Priority. The 2009 and 2010 tax cuts would have made an excellent opportunity to give the biggest tax cuts to the lowest paid workers.

Instead, those tax cuts went to the very top. On top of that, the rise in GST from 12.5% to 15% would have impacted the hardest on those on minimum wage.

Double whammy.

So precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises? (Or could it be that when Key promised to raise wages – he was referring to his own?)

Next chapter: 5. The Minimum Wage

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

11 November 2012 5 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

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3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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“The average income has been about $90,000, so it hasn’t been a badly-paid place. But the problem is flexibility when ships arrive and when staff get called out, how they can cope with that.” – John Key, 12 March 2012

See: Jackson pulls back from port comments

Putting aside from the myth of  POAL maritime workers earning $90,000 – so what?

Even if it were true (which is doubtful) – POAL has never released the workings of how they arrived at that sum, despite requests), isn’t such a good wage precisely what Dear Leader was advocating in his quotes above?

POAL management sought to reduce costs;  casualise their workforce; and compete with Ports of Tauranga for shipping business. Unfortunately, competing on costs would, by necessity, involve driving down wages.

There is also a high degree of price-fixing by shipping cartels, as was pointed out by the Productivity Commision in April,

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Rather than supporting the workers, Dear Leader bought into a situation where international shipping companies were playing New Zealand ports off against each other, to gain the  lowest possible port-charges.  Even local company, Fonterra, was playing the game.

Here we have a situation where New Zealand workers were enjoying high wages – something John Key insists he supports – and yet he was effectively allowing international corporations to create circumstances where those wages could eventually be cut and driven down.

As with the “Hobbit Law”, our Dear Leader appears to pay more heed to the demands of international corporate interests than to fulfilling his pledges to raise wages.

Precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chapter: 4. Rest Home Workers

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

11 November 2012 5 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

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An amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A, allows for employers to sack – without just cause or a chance for an employee to improve performance – within a 90 day period.

It gives unbalanced power to employers who can blackmail an employee or get rid of them at the slightest whim.

It also makes workers less willing to be mobile in the workplace. Why change jobs at the risk of being fired within 90 days of taking up a new position?

When the 90 Day Trial period was first introduced in April 2009, it applied only to companies employing 19 staff or less.

See: Will the 90 Day trial period make a difference?

By April 2011, this was extended to all companies regardless of staff numbers.

Has it helped  generate more jobs as National claimed it would?

Evidence suggests it played very little part in creating employment, and indeed unemployment went up after both legislative changes,

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So aside from empowering employers and disempowering workers, what exactly was the point of enacting this piece of legislation?

And precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next Chapter: 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

11 November 2012 6 comments

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Continued from:  John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface

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1. The “Hobbit Law”

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On 20 October 2010, Peter Jackson released this statement to the media,

“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

It was the opening shot of a public war-of-words between Jackson and his camp, and Actor’s Equity.  An industrial dispute had been elevated to DefCon One, and things were about to ‘go nuclear‘.

Almost overnight, a mood of hysteria gripped the country; we were about to lose ‘Our Precious‘ movies to Eastern Europe, Mongolia, or Timbuktu.

Public panic reached levels unseen since the 1981 Springbok Tour, or the satanic child abuse-ritual stories of the early 199os. There were patriotic street marches (flaming torches were considered but rejected because of OSH concerns.) Union officials were harassed in public; vilified; and threatened with death. A well-known  actress – popular up till this point – considered leaving for Australia after receiving death threats, because of her pro-Union stance.

See: And everybody take a deep breath – please

It was the nastier side of New Zealand’s collective psyche which we’ve come  to be familiar with. We do ‘mob hysteria‘ very well.

John Key and National would have none of it, of course. Dear Leader acted with authoritarian style not seen outside ex-Soviet republics, African, and Middle East  dictatorships.

As the Dominion Post reported,

The Hobbit dispute was resolved after Warner Bros executives jetted into New Zealand for a meeting with Government ministers at Mr Key’s official Wellington residence, Premier House.

After two days of tense days of talks with Warner Bros bosses, who were chauffeured around Wellington in Crown limousines, the Government agreed to a raft of measures including a $20 million tax break to keep the two Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

An agreement to change New Zealand’s employment laws clinched the deal after studio bosses and Jackson threatened to move production off-shore over a stoush with the actors union. Labour lawswere were [subsequently amended].

See: PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

The labour law that the Dompost piece referred to was the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill which made film industry workers independent contractors by default – thereby changing the definition in employment legislation of what constitutes an “employee”.

See: The Hobbit law – what does it mean for workers?

Even if the nature of your employment mirrors that of an employee with a boss who determines your hours of on-site work; supplies all your tools and work materials; dictates your workplace requirements, including meal breaks – your employer can still treat you legally as a “contractor”.

A worker under these conditions has all the obligations of an employee – but none of the rights.  That same worker may be deemed a “self employed contractor” – but has none of the usual independence of a contractor.

A worker in this “limbo” has had all his/her security of employment; minimum wages;  holidays; and right to collective bargaining stripped away.

In effect, for the first time in our democracy, a government has legislated away a  workers right to choose. They no longer have any choice in the matter.

All done at the stroke of a pen. No consultation. It was all decided for you, whether you wanted it or not. Only a totalitarian, One Party, regime could match such dictatorial powers.

The “Hobbit Law” took precisely two days from First Reading to Royal Assent. An Olympic record in law-making.

See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

By 21 December 2010 – two months after Jackson had sent the entire nation into a spin with his first press release -  an email dated 18 October, to Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee, revealed a startling new picture,

There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit”.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

Peter Jackson and John Key knew precisely how to pull this country’s strings and make workers and the public dance to their tune. They managed to con workers to demand losing their own rights as employees. Well played, Mr Jackson, Mr Key.

So precisely, how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chaper:  2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

See also previous blogposts:Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’, Roosting chickens

Additional

Tech Dirt: The Hobbit Took $120M From Kiwi Taxpayers – Maybe They Should Own The Rights (5 Dec 2012)

Fairfax Media: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies (6 Dec 2012)

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface

11 November 2012 19 comments

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Preface

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By now, I think most readers of this blog (and other sources of  political information) will recall certain statements made by Dear Leader over the last four years,

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: National policy – SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

“One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas.  We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere.

To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.” – John Key, 6 September 2008

See: National policy – Speech: Environment Policy Launch

“I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

See: Speech: Key – business breakfast

“Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

See: National policy – Boosting Science and Innovation

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key,  8 February 2011

See: Statement to Parliament 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

See: Parliament – Speech from the Throne

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” -  John Key, 19 April 2012

See: Key wants a high-wage NZ

Key has repeated the same pledge every year since 2008. It has become a mantra, “raise wages, raise wages, raise…”.

But words are easy. What has been Key’s actual track record? How does Dear Leader’s words reconcile with his actions? What have been the results?

The following chapters give an insight into the rhetoric and reality of the National Party and it’s leader, John Key.

1. The “Hobbit Law”

2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

4. Rest Home Workers

5. The Minimum Wage

6. Youth Rates

7. Part 6A – stripped away

8. An End to Collective Agreements

9. Conclusion

10. A New Government’s Response

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