The permament probabtion period

May 6th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Darien Fention announced:

Staff for Members of Parliament will now face the 90 day no rights trial period, unless they are employed to work for Labour, says Darien Fenton, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues.

“Labour does not believe that 90 day trial period is fair, justified or needed and our caucus has unanimously resolved that no Labour MP or manager will accept a 90 day trial period as part of the employment of any new staff member,” Darien Fenton said.

This is hilarious hypocrisy, because Darien has forgotten to mention one key thing.

All parliamentary staff who work for an MP or a parliamentary party (even if they have worked there for 20 years) are effectively on a permament probation period where they can be dismissed at any time, regardless of performance.

In every employment contract there is a clause called “irreconciable differences”, which states that if your MP or Leader declares they have irreconciable differences, you lose you job in return for a payout.

So Labour trumpeting that their staff are protected from the 90 day probation period is meaningless, as Labour MPs can (and have) sack their staff at any time without any need to prove it is a justified dismissal.

The question that should be asked of Labour is why do they campaign to deny other employers the same rights they have as MPs to dismiss their staff purely because they no longer have confidence in them.

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30 Responses to “The permament probabtion period”

  1. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    Brilliant DPF! Please do give some names of EA’s (PA’s in the real world) who have been dismissed under the “irreconcilable differences” clause….To the extent that they wont attract defamation suits, you might like to give “further details”…

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  2. lofty (1,316 comments) says:

    Yes well I never, you learn something every day here at Kiwiblog.

    How typical of the hypocrisy of Labour lately, thrashing about like headless chooks around the 90 day period, when they can, and have used a worse sanction themselves.

    Not really surprised by this.

    There have been a couple of times when this criteria could have been used by us, but no chance of that is there???

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  3. Elaycee (4,393 comments) says:

    “The question that should be asked of Labour is why do they campaign to deny other employers the same rights they have as MPs to dismiss their staff purely because they no longer have confidence in them”.

    Why should we be surprised? Labour has first class honours in hypocrisy and this is just the latest example.

    Also true to form, we can expect TV1 News tonight to run this breathtaking story in the 6pm bulletin. The story will be prepared, (ready for loading into the autocue), by Kris and Fran.

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  4. thedavincimode (6,803 comments) says:

    But David, wouldn’t their employment be with SSC anyway in which case such wouldn’t such terms be at the discretion of SS Commr, albeit that they report to the MPs and can be fired by them? Or are they effectively bulk-funded through an allocation and employed by the respective parties or MPs?

    If the latter, it raises an interesting issue surrounding accountability for taxpayer spending.

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  5. Viking2 (11,491 comments) says:

    And so while I agree about labour there is also another hypocrisy at foot.
    Surely the same rules of permanant probation apply to the Nats. as well? Well don’t they.
    If they do then they are just as bad as Labour with the slight difference that they have kept it quiet, which we could say amounts to collusion.
    So can we expect the Nats and their Maori Partners to apply the same rules for all other employers?
    Act will no doubt be happy but watch the Nats. slide out of their seats and dissappear on this one.

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  6. peterwn (3,277 comments) says:

    “In every employment contract there is a clause called “irreconciable differences” [aka 'attitude problem'], which states that if your MP or Leader declares they have irreconciable differences, you lose you job in return for a payout.”

    So presumably the Employment Court accepts this because of the special circumstances od these Parliamentary employees, and would apply a low threshold as to ‘irreconciable differences’.

    I would doubt that a normal employer could get away with including a similar clause, unless the offered payout was in line with ‘unjustified dismissal’ rates.

    I think that there are three practical implications of adopting the ’90 day’ rule with respect to Parliamentary staff:
    1. The probationer can be ‘let go’ without the need for a payout.
    2. The Employment Court does not even get a ‘look in’ whereas an aggrieved employee could argue the ‘irreconciable differences’ in the employment court.
    3. I understand that MP’s can be ‘sanctioned’ in some way if they ‘burn through’ staff too quickly (the attributes of a MP are often different from the attributes of a ‘good employer’), and presumably ‘let go’ probationers would not count in this regard.

    Anyway, those who aspire to work for MP’s and Ministers need to have a thick enough skin to take what is an inherent part of the job. If they can cope, they will have a most rewarding experience which will prepare them for all sorts of things. Otherwise they should look for work in a heavily unionised industry where they have job security, but little else.

    I think that the 90 day rule will give National MP’s an edge when employing staff since both sides can take calculated risks and the MP’s will end up with amazing people working for them who can run rings round their Labour counterparts.

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  7. Inventory2 (10,342 comments) says:

    Could we extend the 90-day trial to MP’s, not just their staff?

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  8. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    …there is a clause called “irreconciable differences”, which states that if your MP or Leader declares they have irreconciable differences, you lose you job in return for a payout.

    That’s the big difference, DPF. Under the 90 day law there is no payout, or ability to challenge the dismissal at all. Also, as I recall, the clause doesn’t oust the jurisdiction of the Employment Relations Authroity and Employment Court. I seem to recall there being some protracted negotiations on these issues around the time of the Alliance meltdown involving the application of this to Cathy Casey and other former Alliance staffers, although can’t recall the details.

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  9. david c (254 comments) says:

    Me thinks the author of this blog is being very disingenuous in his attempts to spin some anti-Labour sentiment…

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  10. lofty (1,316 comments) says:

    david c…thats the name of the game here my boy.
    Anti labour sentiment. Get used to it.

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  11. Nookin (3,361 comments) says:

    I think you missed the boat on this one, David.

    There are distinct differences.

    Of course, it is very easy to say what they are saying. Labour does not pick up the tab for unjustified dismissal. Labour is making no concessions at all. Parliamentarians have looked upon the public purse as a bottomless pit. I would be more impressed if the Labour party agreed to indemnify the tax payer against any unjustified dismissal or disadvantage claims. Pigs might fly first

    I should also point out that it is not that easy to say that there are irreconcilable differences and therefore you are gone. You still need to pass the “reasonable employer” test.

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  12. thedavincimode (6,803 comments) says:

    I2

    But then we wouldn’t have any.

    (But then, I guess that’s your point)

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  13. Roflcopter (463 comments) says:

    In Mexico, this would be an own gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal

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  14. Sadu (129 comments) says:

    I really can’t fathom how the 90 day probation period can be seen as a bad thing.

    Unless you are an unemployable piece of deadwood of course.

    The law gives employers confidence to go out and hire people. It gives employees a chance to prove that they are up to the job and that they aren’t lazy or useless. For some reason, Labour would want employers to remain stuck with these pieces of deadwood in their businesses whether they like it or not.

    I would argue that if you don’t have the skills or work ethic to be able to hold a job for just 90 days, then you need to work on that urgently. That’s your problem to sort out, why should it be your new employer’s problem?

    I’m self-employed (not an employer) and have no job security whatsoever. I retain my clients by working hard and doing a good job, otherwise they are gone. It pisses me off when Labour and unions start mouthing off about how job security is a god-given right, and somehow poor performance from an employee is the employer’s responsibility to sort out.

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  15. KH (695 comments) says:

    These were the utter hypocrites who drove Christine Rankin from her job. They had every right to not want her to continue. Their call I believe. They could have sat down with her and stated their point, and then done the deal for an exit, which would have cost something, but would have been fair.
    But they decided instead to drive her from her job, by persecution and innuendo. That Labour Government behaved like a pack of wolves attacking their employee.
    Scum.

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  16. Inventory2 (10,342 comments) says:

    Quite so KH; where was Labour’s concerns for workers’ rights with Christine Rankin? Or Erin Leigh? Or Madeleine Setchell?

    Labour says one thing to impress its union backers. It then does something altogether different, and the unions remain silent. Hypocrisy much?

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  17. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Sadu i’m just going to be lazy/helpful and advise you to track down previous posts on the subject, its all been done to death around here!

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  18. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    Come on, someone’s got to have a story about some MP’s EA (PA in common parlance) being “let go” due to irreconcilable differences…

    And for the record, despite vicious rumours to the contrary, I only ever had one EA, the wonderful Sally, who now works for my successor…

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  19. Sadu (129 comments) says:

    Stephen – fair enough, back on topic then.

    Did anyone else notice this quote in the original article…

    “Parliamentary Service staff employed to work for MPs or political parties are already employed on fixed term contracts. To add a 90 day trial period to this is over the top,”

    So are they saying that there’s nothing to worry about because if it doesn’t work out the contract will be finished in 3 years anyway?

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  20. Christopher Thomson (376 comments) says:

    And on that point don’t forget the rail-roading of Commissioner of Police, Peter Doone.

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  21. Doug (410 comments) says:

    I would find it hard to believe that Labour would sack staff they just employ more; they have just plucked another worker from the Standard, to try and lift Goff in the Polls. It’s ok when it’s other people’s money.

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  22. calendar girl (1,244 comments) says:

    Sadu@1:58

    Your comment was well-reasoned and reasonable, and didn’t deserve the peremptory dismissal it received a few comments later. It’s always good to have new contributers here who can put forward a sensible point of view, so welcome. I’ll look forward to reading your future contributions.

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  23. BlairM (2,341 comments) says:

    Prebble tried to get rid of me as one of his staff on that clause in 2004 after he resigned the leadership and the new leader Rodney Hide (for reasons unknown to me to this day) wanted shot of me. But I wouldn’t let them do it. To trigger the irreconcilable differences clause, you actually have to have an irreconcilable difference, and, as I pointed out to Parliamentary Services at the time, you couldn’t fit gold foil between Richard and I. I wasn’t going to go based on something that had not happened. So Prebble called me up and asked me what I wanted (as if I was trying to blackmail him!). I told him I wanted to keep my job. I asked him what the issue was that he was citing as “irreconcilable differences”, and he said “well you’ve caused us all sorts of problems!” “Such as?” And of course he couldn’t answer. While I wasn’t the greatest employee at the time, and Prebble wasn’t going to die in a ditch over me, I don’t think it was at his instigation. They ended up making me redundant instead. The word “clusterfuck” described ACT pretty well at that time also! I could write a book…

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  24. BlairM (2,341 comments) says:

    David – Heather Roy had an EA she let go a few years ago for copying her text messages. I forget the details of what was happening at the time, but it was a breach of confidentiality.

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  25. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Your comment was well-reasoned and reasonable, and didn’t deserve the peremptory dismissal it received a few comments later.

    calendar girl, I thought they were reasonable too but I just thought sodu (being a newbie) would save time by just reading old threads rather than starting up the same old stuff. That’s just me. My apologies if I seemed a bit terse, sodu.

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  26. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Clicking the tag ‘employment law’ under the original post will get a few pretty good ones.

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  27. jaba (2,143 comments) says:

    DPF .. why are you reporting on something that Darien Fenton?
    you will be reporting about Katherine Delahunty or Steven Chadwick next

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  28. Nookin (3,361 comments) says:

    In case anyone can be bothered scrolling thru a rather poorly formatted decision summary, here is an example of an “irreconcible difference” clause at work.

    http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/determinations/FullSummary.aspx?ID=7608115

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  29. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Classic – It’s OK when Labour do it !

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  30. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Actually didn’t Benson-Peep pull the “no confidence must be sacked” line ?

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