It's hard to see how the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, could seriously expect anyone to believe her when she said in Parliament today that 'the fire at will' bill (The Employment Relations Amendment Bill) does not take away any (further) worker's rights.

Provisions under present industrial legislation allow employers to take on a new workers for a probationary period. What National's proposed new law does is strip workers of any protection and the right to take grievance procedures against a boss for unjustified dismissal and so forth.

As the No Right Turn blog notes:

'The core of the bill is new sections 67A and B, which allow small employers ("by agreement" - meaning by economic coercion) to impose a trial period of up to 90 days on new staff, during which they will have no right to bring legal proceedings if dismissed. While existing rights to bring proceedings for racial discrimination and sexual harassment are purportedly preserved, the effect of new s67 B (2) will be to completely undermine them in practice. So, this is a racist's and sexist's charter.'

Wilkinson compounded her stupidity when she said that the legislation didn't apply to all workers, just those working for organisations with less than twenty workers. Well, this is 97 percent of New Zealand's workforce. Doh!

And what Wilkinson didn't say is that a footnote in the legislation says that the law could be extended to all workers at a future date. I'll lay odds that it will be.

Of course with the New Zealand economy spinning rapidly down into a recession that will be far deeper and serious than many people are expecting (certainly not the Reserve Bank governor), business expects John Key to tilt the balance well and truly in their favour.

There will be a price to be paid for the capitalist slump but it'll be paid, if we allow it, by ordinary workers through bills like this one.

My worry is that there will a concerted attempt to direct political opposition into supporting Labour and the Greens - and the Labour-aligned trade union bureaucracy.

Attempts to push Phil Goff as a champion of the working class just won't wash.

Recent history tells us that a fair number of 'wolves in sheep clothing' can be found within the ranks of Labour and its political allies...


  1. I think it is 97% of workPLACES which have less than 20 employees. The remaining 3% will include those with very large numbers of staff so the number of workers affected would be considerably less than 97%.

  2. Your right, I think. That said, it doesn't make this bill any less draconian. Also the clear intention is to widen the scope of this bill to include all workers.
    The majority of NZ workers are employed in small business organisations - the number of workers directly affectd may not be 97 percent but I think it would still be well over half. Wilkinson was still downplaying the impact of this bill.
    It's interesting to note the bill was only presented to Parliament by Gerry Brownlee at 11.45pm last night! Brownlee, of course, used to scream blue murder about Labour pushing bills through under urgency.

  3. Recent history tells us that a fair number of 'wolves in sheep clothing' can be found within the ranks of Labour and its political allies...

    Including, sad to say, a fair chunk of the union "movement". With the professionalisation of union personnel, very few of those who advocate for workers' rights have any experience of the type of work done by those they supposedly represent.

    It's the unfair dismissal lawyers who'll feel the effect of the fire at will law. Given the unions' sorry record under Labour of recruiting members among small business employees most of the active protection of workers in this area has been carried out by no win no fee lawyers.

  4. The CTU's response to the 'fire at will' bill was dismal but not surprising. Some press statements a bit of 'sound and fury signifying nothing' and that was it.
    Just hopeless.
    Union members need to regain conrol of their unions otherwise these complacent and well-paid trade bureuacrats will contine to sell them down the river.


Comments are moderated.