Paekakariki Columnist Warns
of Attack on Workers’ Rights
Government plans to changeNew Zealand’s labour laws
will mean cuts in vital rights for local workers, says our Paekakariki columnist Eva Rawnsley. Here is her report….
Trade UnionsBy Eva Rawnsley
The trade union movement started in England in the first half of the 19th century.
At that time the English farm workers worked under such terribly hard conditions that their families were often poor to the point of starvation. This made some of them unite to try and better their conditions.
Over decades the unions have improved working conditions for all, not only for their own members. However non union workers have exploited the benefits others have fought for and paid for.
Workers Under Notice
Workers have been given notice that the Government is going to change the labour laws enabling all employers to hire workers on a trial period for three months.
Employers will not need to give a reason for dismissal. Union officials will not be able to see workers in the workplace without permission from the employer.
Another change will be that workers will be able exchange their holidays for pay. This may seem innocuous but it is really seriously detrimental to those who take this offer up.
People need holidays for mental and physical health reasons. Family relationships suffer if workers cannot spend time at leisure together. Without holidays people become stressed.
It is also self defeating from the employers point. Stressed workers don’t perform well. As productivity is constantly stressed as essential, run down workers are hardly the way to improve productivity.
“Little protection from exploitation”
At present the private sector union membership is approximately 21,000 thousand. This is a very low figure and leaves workers with very little help and protection from exploitation at times of high unemployment.
What many younger workers today may not realize, is that without the battle the early trade unions fought, workers could still be working six twelve hour days a week, with no sick leave and no annual leave.
Their working conditions could be unsanitary, over crowded and dangerous.
Unfortunately in times of economic downturn and a large unemployed workforce, employers are in a strong position. By no means all employers take advantage of this but unfortunately, human nature being what it is, some employers do use high unemployment to their advantage.
If workers want to help themselves, they can join their union and keep a log of good and bad employers.
When the economy improves again and unemployment decreases, the poor employers will struggle to find workers and the good ones will get the pick of the best.
Today with email, Facebook and other social networking tools, it is so easy for people to get information out, to keep in touch and let each other know of the conditions in their workplace.
They could tell each other of the good places to work in and of the ones to shun.