Finally an end

April 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Radio NZ news manager Lynne Snowdon has lost her marathon employment dispute with the state broadcaster.

In a decision issued today the Employment Court has scored the legal battle – believed to be the longest running employment dispute – at 3-0 to Radio NZ.

Judge Tony Ford said it was a rare case where Radio NZ had been able to establish on “entirely convincing facts” that Snowdon was substantially responsible for the irreconcilable breakdown in the employment relationship.

Snowdon went on sick leave in January 2003. She was dismissed in April 2005.

It’s insane that this case has dragged on for ten years. Hopefully this brings it to an end. I’ve followed the case for many years and had little doubt it would end this way.

Judge Tony Ford dismissed grounds claiming Snowdon had a disadvantage grievance, was unjustifiably dismissed, and that Radio NZ had falsely represented the financial situation at the heart of Snowdon’s complaints.

He said it had been a relatively straightforward employment dispute that had spiralled out of control.

Snowdon’s husband, John Hickling, told the court last year that it had cost Snowdon and her family more than $3.5 million to fight at that stage.

Snowdon let her grievance become an obsession. Off memory it all began as a dispute with then CEO Sharon Crosbie over the budget for the news division. If you don’t like the budget your boss gives you, then go find a new job – don’t turn it into a ten year dispute. If they really have spent $3.5 million on the fight, then that is even sadder, No one forced them to do so.

Since then the case has consumed another 47-day hearing.

Again, insane.

The judge said Radio NZ was entitled to costs and if the parties could not agree between themselves they would be decided by the court.

As a taxpayer, I want them to recover as many of their costs as possible.

Tags: , ,

Herald on revealing CVs

March 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The law is not always an ass but it can produce an absurdity. The decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal to make a company disclose to a failed job applicant the CVs and reference checks of others going for a job is an example.

The aggrieved party complained to the tribunal that he was discriminated against on the basis of age. He wants to see the credentials of others who applied or succeeded in the process. Under the court system’s rules of “discovery”, which the tribunal adopts, all information pertinent to an action needs to be handed over from the defendant to the plaintiff. The tribunal has dismissed an application from the company involved, Alpine Energy, to block that discovery under a section of the Evidence Act which covers confidentiality.

So Alpine and its recruitment agency must give the man the information it has on the successful candidate and those who contested and lost. This would include not only names, applications and CVs (although the tribunal and the failed job-seeker have agreed it need not include addresses and contact details) but also reference and perhaps security checks.

A pretty appalling decision. You apply in confidence for a job. Revealing that you applied could endanger your current job. Also very unappealing forcing a company to justify why it didn’t employ someone. Employment decisions are often somewhat subjective – how well they interviewed, whether or not they would fit into the team culture, whether their CV had typos in it etc.

Tags: , ,

Amazing – presentation helps with jobs

February 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Maya Croll-Wright, 19, has several years of experience in hospitality, strong motivation and an outgoing personality. Yet, she struggles to find a job. Why? She has tattoos, blue hair and describes herself as overweight.

“I have had countless job interviews after applying for every job I can find. But as soon as they see me in person, it all goes downhill.”

In the past two months, Croll-Wright says she had about 20 interviews for jobs in cafes, shops and restaurants around Christchurch. She has been rejected from every one.

Then change the hair colour, and maybe you should have fewer visible tattoos until you have more work experience. In front line customer service roles, presentation is a fact of life. If that is where you want to work, then you may need to compromise on how you wish to look. It is less of an issue in back room roles.

Tags:

An unjustified dismissal

January 15th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting case from the Employment Relations Authority. A Fonterra worker was dismissed for taking part in two Harlem Shake meme videos filmed at Fonterra’s Takanini plant.

Reading the judgement I agree that dismissal way way over the top for a pretty minor infringement of the rules. The health and safety risk was minimal, and the appropriate reaction would have been a warning at most. Dismissal was an over-reaction and it is good to see an order for reinstatement.

Tags: ,

The 90 day trial

December 6th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tens of thousands of workers have been sacked under the 90-day-trial period, with many let go because they “did not fit in”.

Figures published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show about 69,000 employers took on at least one new staff member in 2012 under the legislation.

That’s 59% of employers.

It is not known how many workers were dismissed during the 90-day-trial period, but the figures revealed 27 per cent of employers said they had fired at least one new employee during or at the end of their trial.

This means at least 18,000 people lost their jobs in the first three months of employment last year, with the actual figure likely to be much higher.

When asked why they had dismissed staff, most employers said it was because they were unreliable or had a bad attitude. Other reasons included employees not having the necessary skills, not getting on with colleagues, and not fitting in.

The law has been widely criticised by unions and the Labour Party, which says it will repeal it if it is elected next year.

If Labour don’t repeal it, the unions can vote in a new leader!

Until we gained the trial period law in 2009, we were I think the only country in the OECD that didn’t have a grievance free trial period.

In terms of dismissals during the period, 56% said it was because the employee was unreliable and had a bad attitude. 51% said it was because they did not have the skills to do the job.

But Hospitality New Zealand Wellington president Jeremy Smith praised the trial period, claiming it had been positive for both employers and employees.

Mr Smith, who owns several bars and hotels including The Old Bailey, St Johns and the Cambridge Hotel, said he had hired dozens of staff he would not otherwise have considered.

Because of the transient nature of hospitality, it was often difficult to check references so a trial period “levelled the playing field”.

“We’re in a position now where we’re a lot more comfortable giving people an opportunity.”

And this is backed up:

Labour Minister Simon Bridges believed the legislation was working well.

In 2012, more than 131,000 people were employed on a trial period and nearly a third of all employers who used the trial period said they would not have hired their most newest staff member without it, he said.

Tags: ,

Goldsmith bill on personal grievances

November 15th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Executives who are fired from their companies would be less likely to get excessive golden handshakes under a private member’s bill being promoted by National list MP Paul Goldsmith.

And employers would be less willing to put up with high-paid staff not doing their jobs properly.

But it appears that Mr Goldsmith would have more chance of his bill being passed under a Labour-led Government than the National-led one.

Mr Goldsmith is proposing that employees with salary packages worth more than $150,000 not have the automatic right to a personal grievance, which they have under present employment law.

This is a very commendable bill. It doesn’t mean that employees over $150,000 will not have access to employment law. It means that they can contract out of it. And it is hard to argue that someone earning $150,000 is a vulnerable worker who needs protection.

They will still have access to general contract law, and can sue for breach of contract.

Under the current law, even if an employee is paid out under the terms of his or her contract, they can still take a personal grievance case to try to get a higher payout.

Mr Goldsmith says that means that employers are more likely to put up with someone who is not doing the job well or “make a more generous golden handshake to make the problem go away”.

He said he had been approached by business, and small business in particular, who saw it as a problem.

His bill did not go as far as Australian law which automatically exempts a high-paid employee (earning over A$129,000) from being able to take a personal grievance.

The Goldsmith bill just allows a high earning employee and an employer to sign a contract that limits personal grievances. So it might just say that in the event of an inability to work together, the employee will get paid x weeks salary.

The bill has been put into the private member’s ballot. Labour Minister Simon Bridges said while National supported the proposed bill, the Government would prefer to get officials’ advice.

But Labour’s labour spokesman, Andrew Little, said last night that it was the sort of thing a Labour-led Government would be keen to look at, especially for chief executives.

He had a concern with the $150,000 threshold because it could include highly skilled engineers, for example, working for companies such as Fonterra, who were well down the chain of command and control over the company.

Subject to a discussion about the threshold, he agreed with the bill in principle and thought Labour would support it to select committee.

The threshold seems right to me. It isn’t about the job title. Andrew seems concerned that it might impact some EPMU members, but if an engineer is earning over $150,000 they seem pretty capable of negotiating a good contract.

Tags: , ,

Someone teach Mr Little what fascism really is

November 14th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

A bill that would have allowed employers to hire temporary workers during a strike has been defeated on its first reading in Parliament.

The member’s bill was drafted by National’s Jami-Lee Ross to repeal a section of the Employment Relations Act that has been in force since 2000.

It was not a government bill.

Mr Ross said that under current law unions held an unfair advantage.

“It allows them to hold employers to ransom,” he said.

“Firms can’t hire casual or temporary workers during a strike and millions of dollars worth of productivity are lost every day.”

Labour fiercely opposed the bill.

“We’ve just heard the voice of the fascist National Party,” said Andrew Little.

Oh yes a law change that would not allow a union to cripple an employer is fascism. Pretty fucking insulting to all those people who died actually fighting fascism.

“This bill doesn’t just cover strikes, it covers lock-outs as well,” he said.

“An employer would be able to lock out its employees and hire casual workers in their place – it would cause very serious harm.”

I believe the bill should cover strikes only, but not lock-outs. Basically I think both strikes and lock-outs should be a last resort. Hence allowing temporary labour for strikes but not lockouts would discourage both employers and unions from resorting to them. Once you do, it is very hard to ever have good faith relations going forward.

Although all 59 National MPs and ACT leader John Banks voted for the bill, government ally Peter Dunne didn’t.

The vote was tied at 60-60, which meant the bill didn’t pass its first reading.

A pity, as I think it would have been good to have it go to select committee, so people could submit on it, and it could be amended. But under MMP the major party in Government doesn’t win all the votes.

Tags: ,

Now Labour wants to regulate working hours

November 4th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Darien Fenton announced:

It’s time to consider implementing working-hours regulation in New Zealand to ensure all workers have sustainable incomes and are able to meet their family commitments, says Darien Fenton, Labour’s Associate labour issues spokesperson.

“I am proposing a new bill, the Employment Relations (Hours and Wages Protection) Amendment Bill (attached) to help provide more certainty for workers. The Bill would require the actual hours a person is expected to work to carry out their duties to be specifically written into employment agreements, whether individual or collective.

This would basically abolish casual employment contracts, and also shows a total lack of understanding how difficult it can be to set hours in advance. Sure it is easy in a 9 to 5 office. But what if you are an employer where the number of hours of work you need done is totally dependent on how much work you have from clients?

Will the next step be to set a maximum 35 hour working week as in France?

This sort of bill could only be written by someone who has never worked in the private sector. Labour regards flexibility as an evil bad thing. But it isn’t.

UPDATE: Some clarification from Labour:

The ERA already requires an indication of hours of work to be included in individual contracts. It is not required for CEAs and the bill changes that. You are misleading your readers by saying casual contracts would not be allowed. The bill is designed to ensure such agreements are recorded in writing. 

I still think it is a solution looking for a problem. I think better to rely on good faith than what can be inflexible legislative provisions – the same goes for tea breaks. They worked fine for 100 years without legislative backing up until a few years ago when they were suddenly deemed necessary.

Incidentally I’m informed Darien has worked in the private sector and been a small business owner.

Tags: ,

Will Cunliffe keep his word and apply Part 6A to his own office

September 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act forces employers who win contracts off their competitors to make job offers to all the existing staff of the competitor they have won the contract off.

At present Part 6A only applies to a few industries where workers are deemed vulnerable, such as cleaning.

However David Cunliffe campaigned on a promise of extending Part 6A to all workers.

Therefore to avoid being labelled a hypocrite, I can only assume that the new Labour Leader will be making job offers to all the existing staff of David Shearer’s office.

How could you argue for a law change to protect the rights of employees whose employers lose a contract, and then fail to apply the same standard to yourself?

It’s just like how Labour (and Green) MPs argue against trial periods in employment, yet have all their staff on contracts that allow them to terminate their contracts without cause at any time – basically a never ending trial period.

So will David Cunliffe live up to his campaign pledge and apply Part 6A to the Labour Leader’s office and make them all a job offer? For as the old saying goes, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Tags: , ,

The Whangarei Council sacking

September 17th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

A Whangarei District Council employee has been fired for nominating a candidate for mayoralty.

Jan Walters-Gleeson signed a nomination form last month for Stan Semenoff, a former mayor of Whangarei who is re-standing.

My first reaction was that the Council was wrong to do so. Employees have a right to nominate, or even to stand. But there is a complicating factor.

Ms Walters-Gleeson, who is the personal assistant to the mayor and chief executive of the Whangarei District Council, was sacked two weeks ago, Radio New Zealand reports.

Being the PA to the Mayor makes this case more nuanced. I think it is fair enough to conclude that you can’t have a Mayoral PA who nominates a challenger to the Mayor. How could you possibly have a working relationship with the Mayor after that?

I can’t fathom how Ms Walters-Gleeson could have though that there would be no consequences to doing this.

Now having said that, I think the better response from the Council would be to move her into another job, rather than sack her. She obviously could not continue as the PA to the Mayor, but could continue as a PA in another section of the Council.

Mr Dunne said her dismissal appears to be a gross breach of her rights as a citizen to participate freely and fairly in the electoral process.

“I am surprised we have heard nothing so far from the Electoral Commission, given its oversight role of electoral processes, about the infringement of Ms Walters-Gleeson’s rights as an elector.

I am not surprised as the Electoral Commission does not run local body elections, but more to the point they have no role in employment law. There is no dispute about the validity of the nomination form, just a dispute over a sacking.

According to Radio New Zealand, Ms Walters-Gleeson will fight for her reinstatement.

As I said, I think she should be employed elsewhere in the Council. But one can not expect to be PA to the Mayor when yerou sign the nomination form of a rival. It would be like claiming that an MP’s EA could nominate their election opponent, yet still be the MPs EA.  I’m not sure Peter Dunne would be too happy if his EA had signed the nomination form of Charles Chauvel!

UPDATE: I’m told the current Mayor is not standing, which makes it less of a judgement of error. I still think a Mayoral PA should not sign any Mayoral nominations forms. However the appropriate response is to transfer, not sack.

Tags: , , ,

Marryatt gone

September 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt has resigned, with a $270,000 payout.

The council accepted his resignation today, effective from November 30.

But he will not return to work in the meantime and will remain on full pay until then.

The payout will grate with many, myself included. But the reality of our employment laws is that sacking someone for just cause is extremely difficult and can lead to years of court action. One ex RNZ manager is into year 10 of her lawsuit!

Tags: , ,

Who is promising what

September 3rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The three Labour leadership contenders are making so many promises, that I’ve done this little table below for easy reference. Please, please let me know (e-mail preferably) if there are any pledges I have missed. I will keep updating this.

  Cunliffe Jones Robertson
       
Raise taxes on rich pricks Yes   Yes
Living wage for all Govt staff and contractors Yes   Yes
Minimum wage $15/hr Yes   Yes
Full employment Yes   Yes
Living wage for all Yes    
Pacifica TV channel Yes Yes  
Regulate food prices   Yes  
A home for everyone     Yes
Taxi drivers to earn more Yes    
Increase tax rate on trusts Yes    
Subsidies for tree planting Yes    
Repeal all of National’s employment changes Yes   Yes
Expand ban on house purchases to Australians   Yes  
Extend Northern Rail Link to North Port Yes    
Extend Part 6A from vulnerable workers to all workers Yes    
50% female quota for caucus Yes   Yes
Not block the “man ban” if party wants it Yes   Yes
Scrap Kapiti Expressway Yes    
Possibly buy back SOEs Yes    
Possibly keep Super age at 65, not 67 Yes    
Subsidies or “support” for wood processing     Yes
A second cable to the United States     Yes
Extend 2014 target for Treaty settlements to 2020     Yes
Make Police Commissioner apologise to Tuhoe     Yes
National awards within 100 days of election Yes    

Cunliffe’s pledge to extend Part 6A to all workers takes the prize for the most destructive policy.

Part 6A is the part which states that if a company wins a contract off another company, they have to employ all the staff of the other company.

At present this only applies to industries such as catering, cleaning, orderly and laundry. Cunliffe’s pledge would massively expand this.Say you work for a copy centre, and you lose a major contract to a competitor. The winning copy centre has to hire your staff!In theory it would apply to law firms also. Say a law firm loses a major client to another law firm. All the lawyers who worked for that client at the old firm, would have to be hired by the new firm!It would in fact destroy competition, mergers and acquisitions in New Zealand. It is bad enough we have Part 6A for some industries, but to apply it to all workers is indeed a great leap backwards. The unions though will love it. Getting 20% of the vote in the leadership contests has given them power beyond their wildest dreams.

UPDATE: Have added on Grant’s pledge to have taxpayers fund a second fibre cable to the United States.

UPDATE2: Cunliffe also promising a Pacifica TV channel

UPDATE3: Robertson on Te Karere said he wants Treaty settlement target shifted from 2014 to 2020 and the Police Commission to apologise to Tuhoe.

 UPDATE4: Cunlife promised in a speech he would introduce national awards or “industry standard agreements” within 100 days of an election.

Tags: ,

Employers are not mind readers

August 25th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rob Kidd at Stuff reports:

An Auckland woman who quit work after being slapped on the bum and repeatedly sexually harassed has been told by the Employment Relations Authority it was partly her own fault, the ERA ruling the woman did not do enough to ensure her own safety.

The decision has caused outrage among employment experts who said the decision was unusual.

I contend it has not caused any outrage with employment experts and I am not sure it is that unusual.

“It’s absolutely astonishing. She’s the victim and they turn round and blame her,” said former Green MP Sue Kedgley, one of the founders of the National Organisation for Women.

“It’s an incredibly sensitive issue and they’re trying to shift the responsibility from the person carrying out the harassment to this rather vulnerable young woman.”

Sue Kedgley is not an employment expert.

There are three parties involved here. The woman, the other staff who allegedly harrassed her and the employer. All the ERA has said is that the employer can’t be held liable if you never ever tell them what is happening so they can put a stop to it. Employers do not have spy cameras in the workplace where they can monitor everyone.

Monaghan rejected her personal grievance claim because she had not complained to her bosses.

That gave the company no chance to stop the harassment.

She just walked off the job after a couple of months. Now I accept it can be difficult to decide to complain about sexual harassment as if you do, it can create hostility at work. But again how can you hold an employer accountable for something that you never ever tell them about?

Tags:

A radical extension of employment law

August 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tens of thousands of women have been given a new weapon in the fight for equal pay after a landmark court decision.

Both sides of the debate have called the Employment Court’s ruling on Thursday a “significant” shift, which is likely to give unions more power to fight employers over gender discrimination.

Even when it isn’t gender discrimination!

The Employment Court has ruled women in female-dominated industries can now compare themselves to men in other industries requiring similar skills when pushing for pay equality.

Employers had argued women workers should only be compared with men in the same industry doing the same work and warned a broader view would be “unworkable”.

However, the court rejected the employers’ interpretation, claiming they could “simply perpetuate discrimination in rates of pay to women”.

This is a fairly radical extension of the law. The law was passed so that if an employer had men and women all doing exactly the same job, and they were paying the men more than the women, it would be illegal.

The court has now interpreted this as saying now they no longer have to be doing the same job, or even be in the same industry. It can compare the job of say a teacher to a police officer and decide for all of New Zealand that teachers must all be paid the same as police officers!

Currently industries traditionally considered “women’s work” could continue to pay women poorly simply because a small group of male co-workers shared their low wages, the court said.

This is the key point. There was no evidence at all that male workers doing the same job were being paid more. In fact they were not.

One can debate about whether or not courts should have the power to declare workers in one industry must be paid the same as workers in another industry. I don’t think they should. But what is galling is there has been no debate in Parliament and no law change.

TerraNova executive director Terry Bell said the company was still considering whether to appeal the court’s decision.

I hope they do. Such a radical and far reaching decision should be made explicitly by Parliament.

Tags:

Minimum wage and KiwiSaver

August 22nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An employment case that could effectively raise the minimum wage for workers enrolled in KiwiSaver is being “watched closely” by employers, a lawyer says.

The case, which was heard in the Court of Appeal yesterday and could mean an extra $450 a year for those on the minimum wage, was described as of “considerable public interest” by one of three judges assigned to make a final ruling.

Lower Hutt caregivers Vasivasi Faitala and Dalrene Goff took employer TerraNova Homes & Care to court last year, arguing it was unfair that they had to pay their own and TerraNova’s KiwiSaver contributions under their employment agreement.

At the time, the women earned the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour, made up of $13.24 plus 26c for TerraNova’s KiwiSaver contributions.

Most employers pay the contributions on top of an employee’s salary, but some favour a “total remuneration” approach that includes their contribution, on the grounds that it treats all staff equally.

Although that approach was legal, Ms Faitala and Ms Goff argued it was a breach of the Minimum Wage Act, and the Employment Court agreed, ordering TerraNova to pay any compulsory contributions in addition to the workers’ gross salaries.

TerraNova’s lawyer, Elizabeth Coats, told the court yesterday that although the KiwiSaver Act said compensation should be paid on top of a salary, there was a provisional clause that allowed it to be included if both parties agreed.

It will be interesting to see how the Court of Appeal rules. For my 2c I think the employees are in the right, and likely to win.

While you can agree for KiwiSaver to be based on total remuneration, and hence deducted from what would be your gross salary, I don’t think such an agreement can over-ride the minimum wage requirement.

Tags: , ,

CTU “expert” doesn’t know international law

August 20th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The CTU have brought over Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Congress, to try and whip up opposition to the very modest and minor employment law changes being made by the Government.

They obviously wrote a press release for Burrow, and I can only assume Burrow didn’t read it. The release claims:

“The New Zealand Government has binding obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the ILO Constitution, the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms at Work; and ILO Convention No. 98 on Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. All of these instruments say the same: New Zealand must uphold and promote the rights of workers to bargain collectively and to take strike action in support of these rights.”

I guess they are hoping no one actually reads those covenants and conventions. Take the ICESCR:

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 8 (1) – “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure: ….(d) The right to strike, provided that it is exercised in conformity with the laws of the particular country…”

So the right to strike is clearly not unlimited.

All the law changes do is say the employers can not be forced into a multi-employer contract – they have to agree to it.

The other semi-significant change is merely returning the law to where it was when Labour introduced the ERA in 2000. This “states the duty of good faith does not require the parties to conclude a collective agreement. Instead, the Employment Relations Authority may declare whether collective bargaining has concluded.”

I suspect what the real opposition is about, is the law change that doesn’t force new employees to fund a union unless they opt out.

Tags:

No one else to blame

July 30th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A worker, who was fired after his boss saw Facebook photos of him at a waka ama championship when he was meant to be at home sick, faces bankruptcy if hit up for legal costs.

Bruce Taiapa, of Gisborne, must pay his former employer, Turanga Ararau, $12,315 after he took the training institute to the Employment Relations Authority. It ruled the institute was entitled to sack him because he misused his sick leave. He appealed to the Employment Court, and lost that appeal.

So he took the case, lost it, and appealed, lost that, and is now complaining he can’t pay the legal bills.

Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to just accept the (justified) sacking and look for another job? Or not to have pulled a sickie and facebooked photos of you away at a sporting event.

Tags:

6a should go

July 25th, 2013 at 11:38 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Cleaners converged on Parliament this afternoon to protest against proposed employment law changes. 

Beating red buckets with wooden spoons, they chanted “Hands off 6a”.

The Government wants to scrap the clause, which protects low-paid workers when their job is restructured.

The demonstrators, mostly from the Service and Food Workers Union, handed over more than 2000 submissions to the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee on the proposed Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

Parliamentary cleaner Mareta Sinoti told the crowd of around 50 that scrapping the clause would cause “suffering”.

“We are cleaners, we work hard at a time when most people are at home with our families,” she said. “Few people ever see us at work, but when you come in the morning your offices are clean.

“We work hard on low wages … part 6a is the only job security we have.”

Part 6A ensures the jobs of vulnerable workers – like cleaners and caretakers, laundry staff, or hospital orderlies – are transferred to a new contractor on the same terms if a firm is restructured.

The current 6A is almost unworkable, and the Govt’s changes to it are fairly minor. What they should be doing is scrapping the clause alltogether.

If a company wins a contract through offering a better service or lower price, then they should not have any obligations to the staff of the company that lost the contract. That is how competition works. It also gives staff an incentive to make sure their employer stays competitive and quality.

Tags:

Strikes and Lockouts

June 19th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

As reported last week, Jami-Lee Ross has a bill which will remove the prohibition on temporary labour during a strike or lockout.

Now I don’t have a problem with employers being able to use temporary labour to remain operating during a strike. Without that ability, a union can cripple an employer.

However I do have a concern over the possibility than an employer would lock out current staff, and use temps to force them onto a new contract.

Personally I dislike both strikes and lockouts. I think it is incredibly hard to have a harmonious workplace if either side resorts to the ultimate action of a strike or lockout. I am happy to say I may even dislike lockouts a little bit more, as I don’t like employers trying to force current staff onto a new contract. A shift from a current contract should be one that is mutually agreed to.

There’s even part of me that wonders if employers should have the ability to do a lockout? But as unions have the right to strike, I guess you need an equivalent power for an employer.

But how often do we have strikes and lockouts?

The average numbers of strikes every year since 1986 has been 66. The average number of lockouts is 2. So very very few employers ever resort to a lockout, as it should be.

The average hides the dramatic change over time as this graph shows.

Stoppages

 

You can see the impact of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991. It brought to an end the era of three strikes a week. The 4th Labour Government say 176 strikes a year. 4th National Government saw it drop to 52. 5th Labour Government was 35 average and the first term of 5th National was just 19 a year, or one every three weeks or so. It’s good we have fewer strikes that in the past, but just a few years ago there were 60 in one year under Labour.

Anyway the number of lockouts is extremely low. For the last decade an average of only one a year. So any claims of employers locking staff out should be read in that context.

However if the bill gets through a first reading, and makes it to select committee a possible option to be considered is to remove the prohibition on temporary labour for strikes, but not for lockouts? I’d be interested to hear debate on the pros and cons of that.

To my mind, that could be a good compromise as it would discourage both strikes and lockouts. If an employer can use temporary staff, then a union is less likely to resort to a strike, which is good. Strikes should be a last resort. Once you’ve had a strike it is very difficult to have a trusting employment relationship.

However if you allow employers to use temporary labour for lockouts, that could encourage some employers (not many I am sure) to do a lockout – and I view that as undesirable also.

So repealing the ban on temporary labour for strikes, but not lockouts, would seem to be a good compromise.

Tags: , ,

The Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

June 13th, 2013 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Jami-Lee Ross has had pulled from the ballot his Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is:

to repeal section 97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Section 97 prevents the use of volunteers, contractors, or other casual employees by an employer during a strike or lockout

His rationale:

Any employment legislation needs to provide a balance between employers and employees to be fair. Section 97 creates an imbalance by providing unions with a significant legislative advantage during negotiations. The restrictions placed on employers preventing them from engaging temporary replacement labour to maintain business continuity duringa strike or lockout even extends to family members, volunteers, and willing workers from associated companies that may wish to work within an organisation to maintain business continuity. Restricting the ability of employers to engage temporary replacement labour can have a considerable impact on the productivity and financial viability of an organisation. These restrictions particularly affect the primary production processing industries where production cannot cease without considerable loss to a business.

As far as I’m aware, employees on strike can engage in other work, so it seems only fair employers can do much the same, and use temporary labour to keep revenue flowing. Otherwise a union action can cripple them.

Prior to the enactment of the Employment Relations Act 2000, no equivalent provision existed in any New Zealand employment legislation.

I’ll be interested to see what the situation is in other countries.

I think it is fair to say the the Labour Party will fight this bill with all their might.

UPDATE: It will be interesting to see how parties vote at first reading. We can assume National and ACT will vote in favour, and Labour, Greens and Mana against.

NZ First had this to say when the ERA was passed in 2000:

Part 8 – Clauses 97-111 – Strikes and Lockouts
Under these clauses employees are allowed to strike for a collective agreement, to obtain a multi-employer collective contract, and on the grounds of safety and health.

It prohibits an employer from using replacement labour during a strike but does not prohibit striking workers taking up other employment. This has the potential for a few employees to, in some circumstances, hold the employer, the industry, and sometimes the country, to ransom until their demands are met.

On the basis of their 2000 statement, one would expect they would at least vote for the bill at first reading so it can be considered by a select committee.

Tags: , , , ,

Employment dispute stats

June 6th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Laura Walters at Stuff reports:

Trade unionists have labelled a suggestion by the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association to double the current 90-day trial period for employees as “disgraceful”.

An EMA study of all personal grievances last year showed only 15 per cent of employers successfully defended performance-related grievances in front of the Employment Relations Authority .

EMA manager of employment services David Lowe said it was hard to manage employees with fluctuating performance, and extending the 90-day trial to 180 days would allow employers to identify potential issues with workers.

It’s not a disgraceful suggestion. One can debate it without hysterics. However on the substance of the issue, I’m more inclined to the CTU view that the EMA view that it should remain at 90 days. Of course the CTU thinks there shouldn’t be one at all, but that is a different debate. I think 90 days is adequate to identify a dysfunctional employee. In fact in my experience i often becomes apparent within a few weeks. So I think 90 days is an appropriate period of time for a trial period.

Claims in favour of employers:

Redundancy grievances: 29 per cent (23 out of 80)

Misconduct: 26 per cent (48/122)

Performance: 15 per cent (6/41)

Constructive dismissal: 46 per cent (26/56)

Disadvantage: 27 per cent (18/66)

Claims for reinstatement: 50 per cent (5/10)

The 15% stat for performance claims reinforces my view that it is almost impossible to dismiss an employee legally, just for being incompetent.

The EMA analysis showed 34 claims were made in 2012 by employees whose employment finished within the first 90 days, and 91 per cent of them won.

People forget the 90 day trial provision is not mandatory. It is an option.

Tags:

Union nonsense

April 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said many of the changes appeared technical, but taken together they were the biggest assault on workers rights since the early 90s.

I thought that was the 90 day trial period? Remember all the claims of how it would lead to horrific abuse? Well – where are the horror stories? we were the only country in the OECD without a proper trial period law, and they claimed it was the end of humanity or something when it came in.

The changes would not only affect union members but hundreds of thousands of other workers covered by collective agreements, she said.

What nonsense. It is illegal for anyone to be on a collective agreement unless they are a union member. So what Kelly has said is impossible. There are no workers on a collective contract who are not union members.

The changes are here:

  •  The Authority will have to either provide an oral determination at the end of its hearing, followed by a written record within three months
  • The extension of flexible working arrangements so any employee, not just caregivers, can ask for flexible work. Employees will also be able to ask for flexible work arrangements from the start of their employment.
  • A return to the original position in the Employment Relations Act where the duty of good faith does not require the parties to conclude a collective agreement. Instead, the Employment Relations Authority may declare whether collective bargaining has concluded.
  • Allowing employers to opt out of multi-employer bargaining.
  • Allowing for 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.
  • Changes to Part 6A so employers have greater certainty over the transfer of employees in certain industries such as cleaning, catering, orderly and laundry – if there is a restructuring or change in the contracted service provider. Small to medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 20 employees will also be exempt.
  • Greater clarity as to what confidential information employers are required to provide to affected workers in situations such as dismissal or redundancy.
  • Parties will be required to provide notice of a strike or lock-out.

Most of these changes were in National’s 2011 election policy. It is good they are keeping their word and implementing their policy.

Very pleased to see the 30 day rule is going. It is a stealth form of compulsory unionism where new staff are forced onto the collective contract and will become union members unless they opt out after 30 days.

My view is that union membership decisions should be purely between the employee and a union. if an employee wants to join a union they should go to their website, pay the fee, and join up.

UPDATE: To clarify the Employment Relations Act defines a collective agreement as being between an employer and a union covering at least two employees. Only a union can be party to a collective contract. The law previously allowed any group of employees to negotiate a collective contract.

Non union members can have the same terms as a collective contract in their individual contract, but they are de facto union members who still have to pay union fees – they just don’t get a vote. This is what has the unions so worried – they’ll lose the income from new employees who are forced into paying them fees if they do not opt out.

 

Tags:

Stupid

April 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Gisborne man was justifiably fired after his boss saw Facebook pictures of him at a waka ama championship when he was meant to be at home sick, a court has found.

Bruce Taiapa has lost an appeal to try and overturn an Employment Relations Authority ruling that his employer, the training institute Turanga Ararau, was within its rights to sack him in July 2011 because he misused his sick leave.

Employment Court chief judge Colgan backed up the authority’s ruling in a decision released yesterday.

In March 2011, Taiapa, 59, asked to take a week’s leave without pay so he could attend the waka ama championships in Rotorua. He was granted only three days off because no-one was available to cover his work.

The next Monday, he called in sick, saying he had a damaged calf muscle.

Two days later, his boss saw on Facebook a picture of him at the championships. Taiapa was smiling and giving the thumbs-up.

That is beyond stupid – both the calling a sick when you are not, but competing in waka champs and being photographed there.

Once he returned to Gisborne, Taiapa got a doctor’s certificate stating that he had been unfit to work for the past week. He returned to work three days later.

This is one of the reasons I am skeptical of the numbers on the sickness benefit. It is all too easy to get a certificate.

After a series of discussions, manager Sharon Maynard dismissed Taiapa for misusing his sick leave and misleading his employer. Maynard said she had lost trust and confidence in Taiapa.

Taiapa’s lawyers argued Turanga Ararau should not be able to dictate where Taiapa recuperated from his illness.

I don’t think taking part in a waka championship is recuperation!

Tags: ,

Why we need more substance over process in employment laws

January 25th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Natalie Akoorie at NZ Herald reports:

Mr Gostmann was dismissed without notice from Independent Refrigeration and Electrical in Whakatane in August last year after making a series of costly and serious errors.

In one of the incidents an apprentice asked Mr Gostmann if cables had been isolated when they had not. The cables short-circuited when the apprentice went to move them and he narrowly avoided electrocution.

So almost killed someone.

When Mr Gostmann was interviewed for the senior position early last year, he told Mr Faber he was a refrigeration engineer with 15 years’ experience in South Africa. But when he could not perform basic duties alarm bells rang.

Incompetent.

When Mr Faber made inquiries with Mr Gostmann’s former employers in South Africa he was told Mr Gostmann was merely a handyman.

Lied.

His only qualification in the industry was the equivalent of a two-week course completed for immigration papers and that a reference from his former employer was actually signed by an unwitting office person.

Unqualified.

ERA member Rachel Larmer also accepted evidence that Mr Gostmann’s named referee was someone who worked at a supermarket, rather than at a coolroom and display refrigeration manufacturing company in South Africa, as stated on Mr Gostmann’s curriculum vitae.

However, she criticised Independent Refrigeration for not attempting to improve Mr Gostmann’s poor workmanship through a performance management or monitoring process.

He lied about his experience and was unqualified – and it is their responsibility to improve his performance?

She also said the company should have carried out more thorough reference checks but acknowledged Mr Gostmann was 50 per cent to blame for his dismissal because his work was not up to standard.

The reference was effectively false, and again this is the company’s fault!

She told Independent Refrigeration to pay $10,304 to Mr Gostmann for distress compensation.

Incredible.

Who would want to be an employer?

Tags:

Drinking on the job

December 24th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Abby Gillies at NZ Herald reports:

A company has been cleared after firing two senior workers and health and safety representatives caught drinking in the locker room during a liquor ban.

Henry Nee Nee and Andy Nathan claimed they were unfairly dismissed from Auckland-based import and export handling company C3 following the February incident that involved a group of employees drinking on site.

They said they were singled out for disciplinary action because they were union delegates and representatives on the health and safety committee.

Does being a union delegate mean you can drink on the job?

I would have thought being a health & safety rep would require model behaviour.

Nathan denied drinking on the premises and Nee Nee said he had drunk only ginger beer.

However, the investigation concluded Nee Nee had invited a group of six employees to drink beer in the locker room and all five drank 66 bottles of beer between them.

66 bottles between five? That’s would be impressive if it were not at work.

In disciplinary meetings, Nee Nee and Nathan admitted they had initially falsely denied their involvement, saying they had acted unwisely.

In April they were dismissed for serious misconduct – a decision they appealed against.

ERA member Eleanor Robinson found that unlike the other men involved in the incident, Nee Nee and Nathan “had tried to mislead C3 about what had occurred … and had not admitted their culpability until the disciplinary meetings on 5 April 2012″.

So, as if often the case, it was the lying that got them sacked.

As an employer I’ll often only give warnings even if dismissal is warranted. But if an employee lies, that makes it incredibly difficult to ever have sufficient trust in them again. We all stuff up at work from time to time – but lying about it makes it worse.

Tags: