National MP (Botany), Jami-Lee Ross, has admitted that he has colluded with POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) bosses to draft his proposed strike-breaking amendment, the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. On TV3’s The Nation on 22 June, Ross confirmed that he had been in talks with employers during the height of the industrial dispute between the POAL and MUNZ (Maritime Union);
Source: Youtube – Ports behind bill
At 0:50, Rachel Smalley asks Ross,
“Do the Employers and Manufacturers Association support it?”
Ross’s answer was not at all truthful, and his response was utterly mis-leading. Smalley has to point out to him that the Employers and Manufacturers in fact do not support Ross’s Bill.
This is the first indication that Ross is prepared to ‘spin’ lack of support or outright opposition, in a sly, dishonest fashion. Smalley, who is aware of the Employers and Manufacturers Association position, corrects him,
“I don’t think they support it though, do they, which is quite interesting.”
In fact, the Employers and Manufacturers Association said in a media statement, that “while its principles are worth exploring it could prove very divisive.”
Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Balloted Bill possibly a bridge too far
The same media release went on to slate Ross’s Bill,
“New Zealand communities place a high value on fairness and the Bill could have consequences that would be considered unfair.”
When even employers start perceiving a piece of anti-union legislisation as unfair, then that speaks volumes. Employers are not stupid. They understand that it only takes one unjust law to make workers more militant. That, in turn would generate increased support for a much-weakened trade union movement in this country.
At 1:40, Smalley asked,
“Does the NZ Initiative support it?”
Ross again evaded giving a straight answer, and Smalley pointed out to him that even the right-wing think-tank is dubious about the worth of the Bill.
Then at 2:18, Ross gets to the nub of the matter,
“There’s the potential once the economy really picks up again that we could seeing a whole lot more strikes.”
Ross’s statement is his first candid admission that the raison d’être of his Bill is not the “fairness”, “balance” or “choice” that he has been espousing.
Ross’s sole agenda is to crack down on strikes. Ross is targetting the most fundamental rights of human beings;
- to work together collectively, for mutual benefit
- to with-hold labour when workers deem it necessary
Working together collectively is not just a worker’s prerogative. Collective action is also used by employers who have their own groupings,
Ross’s next admission was political dynamite. At 3:26, Rachel Smalley asked Ross,
“Where does this Bill have it’s origins?”
Ross deflected with waffle about “the rights of New Zealand”.
“Or is it on the wharves of the ports of Auckland, is that where it’s origins lie?”
Ross side-stepped by remarking that “a drawn out strike can have a quite a big impact on the wider economy“.
Then, at 4:00, Smalley asked the million-dollar question,
“Have you discussed this Bill with Ports of Auckland [Ltd]?”
At last, Ross could not evade the questioning and admitted,
“A long time ago. That was an issue that was raised.”
“How long ago?”
“Oh, might have been when the industrial dispute was in full swing…”
This blogger has a fairly good idea when Ross and Ports of Auckland Ltd bosses had their little “chat”: around 11 January 2012.
On 11 January 2012, Jami-Lee Ross wrote this anti-union opinion piece for Scoop Media,
The latest development in the protracted Ports of Auckland industrial dispute must give all parties to the issue pause for thought. Continued industrial action would adversely affect the Port even further and could undermine the Maritime Union’s very reason for being.
The announcement by Fonterra recently that it is moving the company’s business from Auckland to Tauranga and Napier was a blow for the Queen City. While the negotiations between the Maritime Union and Ports of Auckland management may be a distant and removed matter for the average Aucklander, they must know the issue is now one of a fight for their port’s survival.
Every Aucklander has a stake in the Ports of Auckland. It is not a privately owned company. Nor is it listed on any stock exchange. Each and every share in the company is owned by the Auckland Council on behalf of 1.4 million Auckland residents and ratepayers. The destruction in value in one of our city’s largest public assets is alarming and has to be of concern to us all.
I don’t use the term “destruction in value” lightly. It is a strong term, but one that is appropriate for this issue. Just as losing the business of Maersk in December was no laughing matter, losing Fonterra can not be ignored. At a reported weekly trade value of $27million, annualised the loss of Fonterra’s custom represents around $1.4 billion of export business.
But numbers aside, it is obvious that losing the trade of New Zealand’s largest company, only a month after losing the business of one of the worlds largest shipping lines, has to be a wakeup call. Yet sadly for the Maritime Union, it isn’t. Sadly for port workers and Aucklanders alike, the Maritime Union continues to be unphased.
This isn’t a story of a greedy corporate hammering the little guy. This isn’t a story of a David versus Goliath battle where workers are being ripped off or paid a pittance. Few could call poverty on an average annual wage for a wharfie understood to be north of $90,000, with a proposed 10 percent hourly rate increase and performance bonuses of up to 20 percent, sitting on the table. To the average person on the street, the latest Ports of Auckland offer to the Union would almost seem generous.
This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland.
For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.
Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.
Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.
Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.
As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.
*Jami-Lee Ross is the Member of Parliament for Botany. He was formerly a member of the Auckland and Manukau City Councils.
Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Union biting the hand that feeds
Four months after his 11 January statement, Jamie Lee Ross spoke in support of the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill, allowing secret ballot’s before workers decided to take strike action.
Ross put it thusly,
“Today is liberation day. Today is liberation day for New Zealand workers who are members of unions that have not yet embraced the democratic principles of holding a secret ballot when strike action is being considered. I say it is a shame that members of the Opposition are not supporting this bill, the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill.” – Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,
Acknowledgement: Hansards, Parliament
Ross further advocated for secret ballots prior to strike action,
“If members want to stand in this House and say that they do support the concept of secret ballots, which is what a number of speeches have been saying in both the first and second readings—and we have heard it a few times this afternoon as well—and that they think it is a good thing that a number of unions already have secret ballot provisions in their rules, then they should go the step further and support this bill, and do the right thing by giving workers the freedom that they deserve.” – Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,
(Irony of ironies, all MPs votes on legislation are a matter of public record, and recorded in Hansards. There is no secret ballot when MPs vote.)
The Bill passed and became law on 14 May 2012
So what was the relevance between the law that Ross supported and the Ports of Auckland dispute? It seems that the POAL dispute was weighing heavily on the MP’s mind during the third reading of this Bill,
“I want to also touch on the Ports of Auckland for a moment, because I think it is important that we talk a little bit about what has become the key and well-known industrial dispute this year. It is fair to say that the Ports of Auckland dispute probably would not have got as bad as it did if there was the opportunity for those Ports of Auckland workers to have a secret ballot for their strike.” – Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,
It should also be noted that the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill was a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by National backbench MP, Tau Henare – also noted for his hostility toward the trade union movement.
As is the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill – sponsored by Jami-Lee Ross.
The government, it seems, does not want to get it’s hands dirty with Union-smashing legislation. Dear Leader John Key made his feelings abundantly clear in March 2012 when he played the positive-sounding propagandist mouth-piece for POAL bosses,
“I think they went through a genuine good faith process,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.
The company believed it was losing business, primarily to the Port of Tauranga, because it wasn’t competitive.
“Their view is unless they change, it will be death by a thousand cuts.”
Demand from the council for a 12 per cent return from the company within five years, up from a current 6 per cent, had not lead to the dispute, Key said.
The port had struggled with financial problems for some time and cash flow issues had forced it to sell Queens Wharf to the Government.
“Unless that’s an efficient workplace, unless it’s competitive, ultimately they will continue to lose business.”
The company was trying to make savings at the port to protect all its jobs, he said,
“And I guess they have moved to this issue where they want to go to outsourcing.”
The company needed to find almost 300 workers and would take people with experience.
“I suspect quite a lot of the people who have been made redundant will actually reapply and funnily enough get their job back just through a different vehicle… the conditions will be different.”
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Jackson pulls back from port comments
So how involved was the Ports of Auckland Ltd bosses in motivating, encouraging, or actively sponsoring Ross to write his strike-breaking Bill?
Rachel Smalley put that question to Ross in the same interview. At 4:28 she asked,
“What was the Port’s input into the Bill?
“The Ports [of Auckland Ltd] indicated that during a strike like every organisation that is affected by a strike, they’re unable to keep their business going…”
So the bosses at POAL indicated to Ross that they were unable to keep their business going – and the MP for Botany duly obliged with a Bill that he fully admits POAL mananagement had input into.
This is commonly known as collusion.
What makes it all the much worse is that POAL is a publicly-owned company (by Auckland ratepayers) – and it’s own management acted against the interests of the community, as if it were some predatory trans-national corporation.
Indeed, that is precisely how Ports of Auckland Ltd management have behaved during the long-running industrial dispute;
- 12 January 2012 – Leaked POAL papers showed that management were running their own agenda “of ramping up the current industrial dispute while saying they want to resolve it.The draft management plan sets out a comprehensive contracting out plan, disparages the ports owners and board of directors, and predetermines there is no intention of seeking a negotiated solution.” (source)
- 22 March 2012 – Ports workers were served a lockout notice from Ports of Auckland LTD management just hours before a vote to bring to an end strike action. (source)
- 22 March 2012 – A POAL manager involved in negotiations with the Maritime Union was linked to a company, Pacific Crew Holdings Ltd, recruiting non-unionised wharfies for a new company, registered with the Companies Office only a month earlier. (source)
- 27 March 2012 – Employment Relations Authority issued a judgement in favour of Maritime Union not to harass workers; not to make union member redundant; not to hire scab labour; not to engage Drake New Zealand Ltd or Allied Workforce Ltd or any other person to perform the work of striking/locked-out employees; not to pressure union members to sign contracts with Drake or Allied Workforce, etc. (source)
- 12 April 2012 – POAL bosses admitted leaking private details of a port worker to a right wing blogger. The maritime worker had lost his wife to cancer. The blogger was closely connected to POAL, and may have been paid for writing pro-management propaganda on his blog. (source)
- 13 August 2012 – Maritime Union outlined cases of bullying by POAL management, ”every time somebody coughs there is a disciplinary hearing, they are attacking people continuously, making their lives miserable. There are people getting disciplined for all sorts of things, – it’s ridiculous for infinitesimal little things. They [workers] think it’s part of their [management] campaign to undermine the workforce to try and get them a little bit weakened so they will agree to what is put to them.” (source)
It should be obvious to all by now that POAL management had no intention whatsoever of negotiating with the Maritime Union in good faith, as the Employment Relations Act requires.
It was also suggested that POAL management were setting up the Ports company for eventual privatisation (see: NBR – Plea for ratepayers to give up port control). Rationalising a workforce is usually a precursor to a privatisation agenda.
Whether or not Jami-Lee Ross’s strike breaking Bill becomes law is by no means guaranteed. Even if National finds the couple of votes needed to pass it into law, this blogger has no doubt that an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government will consign it to the rubbish bin of political history. Where it rightly belongs with other laws that threaten the livelihoods of New Zealanders and their families.
Make no mistake, this Bill has nothing to do with “fairness”, “balance”, or “choice” , etc.
This Bill has only one goal; to force workers not to strike, by fear-threat of losing their jobs and replaced by strike-breaking scab labour. With unemployment at 146,000 unemployed according to a recent Household Labour Force Survey, there would be many desperate to get into a job – even if it meant displacing a striking worker. This is the dog-eat-dog world of the “Free” Market, and which Jami-Lee Ross wants to aggravate for the ordinary working man and woman.
It is fairly clear that Jami-Lee Ross and Ports of Auckland Ltd management have colluded to draft this Bill.
It is further clear that POAL had this Bill in mind to break the authority of the Maritime Union to negotiate on behalf of it’s members.
And it’s further clear that POAL had in mind this strike-breaking Bill as part of it’s over-arching agenda.
For Jami-Lee Ross, he is in a no-lose situation. If his Bill becomes law, he cements his reputation as a willing tool of the employers to do their bidding. (Much like Simon Lusk advocated in his far right plan to make MPs beholding to donors. See: National turns on hard right advisor)
And if the Bill fails, he still builds a reputation as a right wing politician willing to work with fiscal conservatives; employers; and any others who advance the neo-liberal agenda.
Jami-Lee Ross – willing servant of bosses; conservatives; and cashed-up donors.
“Going on strike cannot be easy. It can be financially and morally devastating.” – Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,
Acknowledgement: Hansards, Parliament
Yes, indeed. Very “financially and morally devastating“. Especially if Mr Ross get’s his way.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 July 2013.
Scoop Media: Union biting the hand that feeds (11 Jan 2012)
Fairfax Media: Port workers claim bullying continues (13 Aug 2012)
Fairfax Media: Bosses bypass new era (11 Nov 2012)
Fairfax Media: Kiwi bosses’ attitude repels expats (15 Dec 2012)
Fairfax Media: Unionist slams ‘assault on workers’ (27 April 2013)
Scoop Media: Balloted Bill possibly a bridge too far (14 June 2013)
Youtube: Ports behind bill (22 June 2013)
Bowalley Road: The Right To Say – “No.”
Waitakere News: National’s generic press release for introduction of new bill
= fs =
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – say those who attempt to justify the increasing surveillance power of State’s, multi-nationals, and internet “webcorps” like Facebook and Google.
I find that usually these people fall into three categories;
- the incredibly naive, who believe that their government loves them. Because Big Brother loves you.
- the incredibly fearful, who see terrorists under their beds, in the closet, out on the street behind a tree…
- the incredibly partisan – who identify so closely with their Party-of-choice, that that will give it wholehearted trust whilst in office. But will then condemn an opposition Party’s use of State surveillance power once they win government.
The SIS was formed in 1956 – during the height of the Cold War. It was a perilous time in our history, when two super power blocs faced off against each other. Armed with colossal numbers of atomic weaponry, Planet Earth stood on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. Cockroaches bided their time to inherit.
Twentyone years later, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) was created in 1977 at the behest of then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. Super power rivalry and a volatile mix of Middle East tensions created an environment where intelligence-gathering became as vital as actual military (if not more so).
Prime Ministers of the day promised, hand on heart, that each organisation would be carefully controlled and their activities monitored.
A year earlier, the police Wanganui Computer centre had opened, holding information for the New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority and the justice department,
‘Big Brother is watching’? The New Zealand government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Act raised questions about the state’s ability to gather information on its citizens.
[…]Critics were unconvinced. Civil libertarians likened it to something from George Orwell’s 1984 and mounted numerous protests against the system. The ultimate protest occurred in November 1982, when 22-year-old anarchist Neil Roberts was apparently blown up by his own gelignite bomb as he tried to breach security at the computer centre.
Acknowledgement: NZ On-Line History – Wanganui Computer legislation passed
By 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end and the “runner up” in the rivalry between superpowers- the Soviet Bloc – fell apart. The Berlin Wall came down. The Iron Curtain parted. Eastern European nations jumped on the NATO bandwagon. And the CCCP (USSR) now lives on only in history books and far-flung space probes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, and further out in deep space.
But you wouldn’t think it, as the West – including little old laid-back New Zealand – ratcheted up the power of the State. After the televised terror of 9/11, who could say ‘no’ to more and more surveillance; security; spying; and other governmental powers?
In October 2002, the Clark-led Labour government enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. The Police website referred to this legislation as,
The TSA establishes a legal framework for the suppression of terrorism. In particular, it is the mechanism by which New Zealand gives effect to the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) mandatory resolutions requiring UN member states to take certain steps to suppress terrorism. An important feature of this framework is the Prime Minister’s power under the TSA to designate individuals or groups as terrorist or associated entities. Designation can be on an “interim” (s 20 TSA) or “final” (s 22 TSA) basis.
It should be noted that the definition of who/what is a terrorist entity was left up to individual governments to make,
Secondly, and by contrast, while UNSC Resolution 1373 obliges New Zealand (inter alia) to outlaw the financing of, participation in and recruitment to, terrorist entities, it does not specifically identify those entities. The Resolution effectively leaves it to Member States to identify the entities against which they should act.
Some 21 groups around the world are currently listed as “terrorist” organisations. One of those 21 organisations is the Kurdistan Workers Party/ Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (“PKK”), which is seeking a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
The PKK is currently in negotiations with the Turkish government. If it is a “terrorist” organisation, then the Turks are negotiating with terrorists.
Perhaps the best known example of “terrorist-come-statesman” is Nelson Mandela who served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. The ANC was banned in 1960 and Mandela served 27 years in prison.
Once upon a time, Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the ANC as a terrorist organisation,
“The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land‘. ” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987
Now the ANC is the legitimate government of South Africa and Nelson Mandela is revered as one of the greatest statesmen the 20th Century has ever produced.
Such is the difficulty with branding a group as “terrorist”. It is a political statement – and that is the problem. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.
The government attempted to employ the Terrorism Suppression Act once, and once only – subsequent to the Urewera Raid on Monday, 15 October 2007. For the first time, something out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” crossed over from fantasy, into harsh reality,
Imagine welcoming a Time Traveler from New Zealand 1971 to 2007 with the above scene. Would s/he think that New Zealand had fallen under the harsh rule of a military-fascist dictatorship? That somewhere in the intervening time-period, a coup d’état had overthrown a democratically-elected government, and we were living under a Chilean-style regime?
However, the confusing nature of the law was such that charges were dropped against most of the 18 arrested. Only four proceeded to trial.
Eventually, none were charged with “terrorism”, the Act iself being described by Solicitor General Collins as “complex and incoherent”, and “almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances”.
The Act, however, remains in force.
Since then, as if in some bizarre “Space Race” with Labour, the Key-led National Government decided to trump the Terrorism Suppression Act with the Search And Surveillance Act 2012.
As the NZ Herald reported on 1 October, last year,
The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.
It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – New police search and surveillance law in force
The report went on to state,
Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm] Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.
“Either emergencies, where life might be at risk, or where the destruction of evidence might occur in very serious circumstances,” he said.
“My own interpretation is this is very common sense legislation which provides us reasonable means to carry out our functions.”
He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers.
“He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers“.
Well, Burgess would say that, wouldn’t he?
Does anyone remotely believe that Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess would say the opposite, like this,
“Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess saw the changes as a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers, which would move New Zealand society further into the realms of a Surveillance Society where State power over-rode the right to privacy.
“We already have sufficient powers to catch burglars, drunk drivers, and drug pushers”, he said.”
Show me a senior police office who would say something like that, and I will show you a Little Green Man from Mars. (He’s living in my basement and the little bugger has drunk most of my bourbon. Not that it has much effect on him…)
Eight months after the Search & Surveillance Bill was enacted, this bombshell hit the news;
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched
Despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.
Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,
“In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been. It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”
Acknowledgement: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance
Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which states –
Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.
– the myth is perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.
So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?
Instead National has amended the law – in effect legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.
National is also enacting the new amendment – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.
Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.
But you wouldn’t think so.
Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,
- “There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
- “…covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
- “This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013
When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,
“I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)
And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,
He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”
He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.
Acknowledgement: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance
But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.
Not one, as Key admitted,
“ Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB .”
If this had happened thirty or fourty years ago, when New Zealanders were seemingly far more conciousness of the threat of growing Orwellian state power, there would have been mass protests in the streets.
New Zealanders seem to have either fallen into a deep trance, or have grown tired in resisting the remorseless advance of the State.
Is this the country that marched, en masse, to prevent a racist rugby team from touring, in 1981?
What happened to us?
On top of becoming a Surveillance State, National is also winding back the rights of workers to negotiate with employers, and the right to strike,
Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour
In a series of tweet-exchanges, National MP, Jamie-Lee Ross explained his purpose of the Bill,
Jamie-Lee Ross is simply repeating the line from National’s spin-doctors. His repetition of “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is garbage of course.
You will most likely keep hearing Ross’s refrain, “restore a balance between employers and employees” more and more as the Bill progresses through the House.
The only “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is for employers to get rid of striking workers and replace them with a more compliant, subservient workforce who will accept lower wages and lesser working conditions.
As CTU President, Helen Kelley explained on The Standard,
1. Notice for strikes.
Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.
2. A strike tax
The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.
3. Restrictions on the right to strike
The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.
There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.
40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.
Acknowledgement: The Standard – Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws
Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) summed it up with simple clarity,
“ The latest piece of legislation actually goes further than what applied in the 1990s.
It’s already very difficult, in an era of reasonably high unemployment and very low economic activity, for workers to test their employers for fairer wage outcomes.
It’s an answer to a problem we don’t have. We don’t have a problem with high wages, we don’t have a problem with industrial chaos .”
Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour
This is a direct reaction to the industrial dispute at the Ports of Auckland which faced off Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) against Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). It is a dispute which MUNZ pursued (and won!) through legal channels such as the Employment Court, and also won in the Court of Public Opinion.
Meanwhile, the employers, POAL, broke employment laws; negotiated in bad faith; leaked sensitive employee information to a foul-mouthed, deranged right-wing blogger; and spread dis-information to the media and public. It was a nasty, vicious, under-handed battle.
The country saw it for what it was, and understood that the POAL and it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, and Board were directly responsible.
Eventually, on 29 March last year, the Employment Court found in favour of the Maritime Union and forced POAL back to the bargaining table. Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for the Right. A defeat that could not stand – Unions could not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to make our labourforce more “flexible”.
Having lost the battle in both Courts and with the Public, rightwing politicians and employers are now wanting retribution. But more than that, the Right Wing want the law changed so that workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed. In fact, they want the right to strike to become a thing of the past.
No worker will dare strike if they risk losing their jobs to strike-breakers.
It is no coincidence that Jamie-Lee Ross is the author of this repressive legislation. Because Mr Ross was also involved on the fringes in the ports of Auckland dispute.
Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz – Union biting the hand that feeds
So it seems that Jamie-Lee Ross has evidently been tasked with “reforming” New Zealand’s current labour laws. By “reforming”, I mean to change the law in such a way that a Union could never again challenge – and defeat – an employer.
This is what Mr Ross’s Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill is all about.
I just wish Mr Ross was more upfront with the true intent of his Bill. It’s a strike-breaker. End of story.
And next on the Dark Agenda, curtailment of peoples’ right to protest that might interfere with corporate activity.
I refer, of course, to another National MP – Minister Simon Bridges – who enacted a new law through Parliament – one with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“ (see: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview).
On 3 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A, there was this exchange between Bridges and Jessica Mutch,
JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?
SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.
JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?
SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.
Acknowledgement: TVNZ: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview
Notice that Bridges has dressed up increased suppression of dissent and protest as a “safety” issue. He refers to “ stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous act” and “because of the dangers associated with doing that [protesting]“.
National’s spin doctors have created the meme to be repeated ad nauseum; this is a “safety” issue and not a civil rights issue.
I think most New Zealanders are not taken in by that bit of daft fiction.
It is little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.
For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, brutish, authoritarian government that is afraid of it’s own people.
National’s increased surveillance powers could come in very handy for a left wing government. First of all, National’s stooge – Ian Fletcher – will have to be replaced by someone more “sympathetic” to a left-wing government.
Someone with strong left-wing credentials, and who is willing to crack down on right-wing subversive elements in New Zealand.
Subversive right wing groups that threaten the safety of New Zealand citizens – an which can now be more easily surveilled. Groups and individuals such as,
- National Party
- New Zealand Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable)
- Family First
- Karl Du Fresne
- Michael Laws
- Cameron Slater
- David Farrar
- Business NZ
- Crosby Textor
And probably a few others I’ve forgotten to list.
The new US-based company, Palantir, that has set up office in Wellington and is currently seeking an Embedded Analyst with the NZ Government, could be useful to monitor and keep track of these subversives. They have a known track record for anti-social, and undermining economic activities in this country.
National also intends to strengthen data-sharing between government departments such as IRD, WINZ, etc (see: Govt considers new ‘big data’ hub). This will be handy to evaluate possible tax evasion for any of these groups.
Of course, if the GCSB/SIS can’t find anything illegal, we can always scrutinise their internet history. Check out what websites they’ve been visiting. Something, anything, dodgy. Preferably involving illegal sex acts. Then leak it to a friendly left-wing blogger to publish. (see: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union)
Yes, indeed, increasing powers and laws that allow a crack-down on dissent could prove very handy for the “far left” Labour-Green government that John Key warns us is coming.
No doubt the Righties will be screaming blue-murder about infringing their privacy. Their identities and comments will be noted. And added to their files. (see: “The Spies Are Welcome To Mine”: A Fantasy)
There is no more privacy.
The rise of the Police surveillance state…
Crushing Union opposition…
Placing heavy restrictions on protest activity…
These are the hallmarks of a government that is exerting firm control over society and willing to flex it’s “muscle” to have it’s own way. It is a phenomenon that seems to be occurring around the world, with even The Bastion Of Democracy, the USA, now a fully-fledged Surveillance State (but with capitalist trappings).
Through growing surveillance, National is watching those “persons of interest” who are likely to interfere with their agenda. Such people can be environmental activists, intellectuals, unionists, civil rights advocates, left wing bloggers, et al. People who are vigilant on behalf of all New Zealanders – yes, even those on the Right.
Though Ross’s Bill, National will reduce Union power to such a degree that businesses and investors will no longer have to put up with disruption to their incomes and profits. Workers and their representatives will effectively be silenced.
And if anyone disrupts corporate activity such as deep-sea prospecting/drilling, then the State can crack down on protesters with harsh financial penalties and dire threats of imprisonment.
This is a government, my fellow New Zealanders, that is no longer willing to tolerate dissent. Especially if it threatens their agenda.
Recently, at the Green Party conference, Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon. Notoriously, Muldoon had little patience with those who crossed him or opposed his views.
Norman got it partly right. Actually, this entire government is Muldoonist in the way it is building up Executive power. Power with which to intimidate opposition. Key is merely the affable, smiling face of that intimidating government. He is the “likeable uncle” behind whom is the full power of the State, and an Executive willing to use it, regardless of consequences or notions of human rights.)
The questions now demanding an answer;
- Are National voters comfortable with the accumulation of power by the State?
- How will National voters view such extraordinary power being wielded by a left-wing government?
- Will an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government committ to reversing these autocratic laws?
There was mass-hysteria when the media got hold of the ridiculous story that Labour was going to “interfere” with shower heads. Charges of “nanny state” flew like wool in a shearing shed (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state). Of course it was nothing more than a beat-up by National and it’s friendly media.
But it seemed to have stuck in the public consciousness, and Labour became synonymous with the so-called “Nanny State”.
Never mind Nanny. Big Brother is the one to watch out for. He’ll certainly be watching us.
Oh, how we Baby Boomers – who lived through the 1960s and 70s – have seemingly forgotten our distrust of the State.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2013.
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8. An End to Collective Agreements
National’s covert agenda to resurrect the Employment Contract’s Act involves the following,
- The Employment Relations Authority can declare in certain circumstances that collective bargaining has ended.
- A duty of good faith does not require the parties to conclude a collective agreement.
- Employers can opt out of multi-employer bargaining.
- Partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action.
- 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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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers
5. The Minimum Wage
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.
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.”
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.
The real insult is that Key and English both admit that the minimum wage is difficult to live on.
“Look, I think it would be very difficult for anyone to do that.”
“ 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. “
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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3. Ports of Auckland Dispute
“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
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,
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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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”
2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period
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.
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,
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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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface
1. The “Hobbit Law”
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.”
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.
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]. “
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”.
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.
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.”
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
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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For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ A Living wage at $19.25/hr
~ Marriage equality - Yay! Got that one!
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
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