A confused article

February 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is set to tighten up the rules around zero-hour contracts – the casual employment agreements that saw petrol station workers docked wages after customers drove off.

This article conflates two separate issues. Zero hours contracts and if an employer can deduct wages for staff actions or inactions which cause a loss. The latter issue could occur no matter how many hours you are contracted for, and it is misleading to conflate the issues.

I think deducting wages of petrol station workers for drive offs is wrong, and illegal in many cases.

It comes as a union campaign to outlaw the controversial contracts – which are widely used in the fast-food and service industries – gathers a head of steam.

The terms mean staff work and get paid only when they are needed and often at short notice. Shifts can be cancelled, without reimbursement for travel or other costs. Holiday, sick pay and other employment rights are not guaranteed and in some cases employees are penalised for losses.

Again this is wrong. The article lumps together a number of what you may call employment abuses and calls them zero hours contracts. This is useful to Labour and the unions who have a campaign against them, but it is again misleading.

Zero hour contracts do mean staff only get paid when needed and can be cancelled at short notice. But it does not mean holiday pay is not guaranteed – that is an absolute right. It also has nothing to do with penalising employees for losses. That is a separate issue.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was motivated to act after it emerged Gull service station managers had billed staff when customers fled without paying for their fuel.

He has asked officials to look at a ban on practices “where there is no quid-pro-quo in the employment relationship”. It will form part of an ongoing review of employment standards that began last year.

Billing staff for drive offs is wrong and exploitative and may already be illegal. It is good the Government is looking into the law around that.

However, it is unlikely the Government will go as far as outlawing zero-hours contracts – because they suit students, part-time parents and the semi-retired. He rejected the ‘Certainty at Work’ legislation proposed by Labour last week, saying it was “blunt and unsophisticated and would make things worse for the workers”.

It could effectively be a ban on all casual work, which would devastate many employees and employers. As the article says, zero hours contracts suit many students who don’t want fixed hours.

My view is that zero hour contracts are absolutely fine – however if the employer does not guarantee a minimum number of hours, then the employee can’t be forced to work any particular hours – ie the employer has to persuade staff to work a particular shift – rather than just force them on, with no reciprocal obligation of minimum hours.

Kelly says current employment laws only provide for fixed-term or permanent employment.

“If someone is fixed term they have to be employed on genuine grounds. We think most casual employment is already illegal, it just requires enforcement.

So the CTU and their parliamentary wing want to abolish casual work. Nice.

Tags: , ,

Little pledges to outlaw zero hour contracts

December 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It was an accident of timing that on the very day he was signalling the party needed to modernise its cloth-cap image, he should be invited to speak at Unite, the most militant of modern unions. There were liberal references to “mate” and “brother” from Mr Little in the question session that followed.

“Will Labour outlaw zero-hour contracts?” one delegate asked directly. Getting rid of them is a new campaign for Unite.

Mr Little had already criticised zero-hour contracts in the morning speech as a disturbing trend.

“Zero-hour contracts” give employers the right to tell employees from week to week how many hours they will be working, if any at all – hence the word zero.

Mr Little answered: “The idea that you sign up and enter into an obligation to make yourself available to the employer with no reciprocal obligation for the employer to provide work, that’s not acceptable.

“If it doesn’t change, we will outlaw it,” he said to resounding applause.

That would be a huge mistake.

I share the distaste that some fast food companies use zero hour contracts, when they have regular hours and demand. I wish good luck to UNITE for negotiating an end to them in those industries.

However Little will be making a huge mistake if he follows through on his pledge to outlaw them, as there are industries and businesses where they are essential.  If an employer literally has no work available, then it is insane to say they must pay staff to turn up and do nothing.

Also many students like zero hour contracts as it gives them flexibility also, to just work the shifts they can. Making it illegal for an employer and employee to agree to a casual contract would be draconian.  It would mean a diary owner couldn’t have a relief worker on call, for example.

Yes there is a problem in the fast food industry. But do not treat all businesses and industries the same. You’ll destroy lots of jobs and employers if you do.

Tags: , ,

Slightly different to petrol stations

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A supermarket boss told teenage checkout girls to fork out up to $700 when organised thieves walked off with full trolleys.

This sounds just as bad as the petrol station stories about making staff pay for drive offs, but there is a difference.

The mother of one of the Pak’nSave checkout girls said the company was “passing the buck” on to its least powerful workers. “Those sort of huge firms will just push you around and that’s just the way it is, they get away with it,” said the woman, who did not want to be named to protect her daughter from employment repercussions.

Her daughter, then 18, earned $13.75 and worked 10 to 30 hours a week. She was working with a colleague on one checkout early this year when two women approached with two trolleys. After the first, full of expensive goods, was scanned the first woman asked her to get her some eggs.

When she returned the woman was unloading the first trolley into a car as her accomplice prepared to pay the checkout operator for both trolleys – until her debit card was declined. “She said, I need to get another card from the car, then she went out and they took off with the first trolley. Cunning, eh?” said the worker’s mother.

The supermarket’s owner-operator Andrew Soutar insisted the teens were liable to split the cost of the theft, about $700, because they should have prevented it.

This is slightly different. The staff allowed the women to leave without paying. Yes they were conned, but there would be procedures such as don’t leave your till unattended, and don’t let someone leave unattended without leaving the unpaid groceries behind.

This is different to petrol stations where staff can’t actually do anything to prevent drive offs.

Now having said that, it’s still pretty heartless by the store owner. Rather than make the girls pay, I would give them a warning, tell them if they didn’t follow procedures in future then they may be liable, and use it as a training example for other staff on the sort of cons you can get.

The petrol station owners were probably breaking the law. The supermarket owner is not I would say, but I think they are lacking some compassion. It was a fairly sophisticated con, and you should allow people to learn from their mistakes. Having said that, it would be useful to know how explicit and detailed the policies and procedures were on what to do in these situations.


Punish the thieves not the workers

November 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customers cost service stations millions by fleeing without paying, but low-paid workers appear to be bearing the brunt.

In the wake of a story yesterday highlighting the case of workers at Masterton’s Night ‘n Day store, which also operates a Gull service station, being docked wages after customers drove off without paying, employees at other stations have come forward with more examples of the practice.

At least one other service station in the Wellington area routinely docked workers for “drive-offs”, and dozens of reader comments and emails spoke of other instances.

“I asked my boss, ‘How are we supposed to stop the drivers?’ And he said . . . ‘You’ve got to try to do your best to stop them getting off the forecourt’,” said a Hutt Valley Caltex station worker, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

That’s appalling. Would a retailer dock wages off staff to compensate for shoplifters?

Of course staff should attempt to stop drive offs, but in many cases it won’t be possible.

The solution for owners is to report drive offs to the Police, not to take it from their staff’s pay.


Zero hour contracts

November 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

There’s a call to ban “zero hour” contracts following evidence their use in New Zealand is spreading.

The contracts don’t guarantee any hours of work and employees have to be ready to come in when they’re called.

Unions say employers have started following their overseas counterparts.

“McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Burger King, Wendy’s – all of the contracts have no minimum hours,” Unite Union’s Mike Treen said on Radio New Zealand today.

“People can be, and are, rostered anywhere from three to 40 hours a week, or sometimes 60 hours a week.”

The use of zero hour contracts when the employer’s hours of operation are well known in advance seems pretty scummy. If you know your opening hours you should be able to guarantee a minimum number of hours to staff.

NZ First says they must be outlawed.

Industrial relations spokesman Clayton Mitchell says the contracts are “a dreadful British experiment” that New Zealand doesn’t need.

“These contracts are despicable and cruel, and designed to put workers at the beck and call of their employer,” he said.

Banning them however would be very stupid and undesirable. Not all employers are the same. Some employers do not have fixed hours of operation. They only have work for their staff, when they have clients who have work for them to do. If you ban zero hour contracts for all employers, then you would potentially bankrupt some employers who would be having to pay staff to turn up and do nothing.

Treating all employers as the same is stupid and inflexible. McDonalds is not the same as a call centre, for example. The solution to the zero hour contracts at McDonalds is now a law change, but negotiations with McDonalds.


Falling for Labour spin

October 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hipkins also pointed out the irony of National MPs enjoying a leisurely 90-minute break for dinner during debate on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which takes away the statutory entitlement to … a meal break. You can set your clock by the time MPs rise for dinner – every sitting day at 6pm, stretching it out till 7.30pm. National hoped to pass the legislation this week but ran out of time.

Good spin by Labour, but falls short on numerous grounds.

First of all that is only the time during which the House is suspended. That does not mean it is a 90 minute break for MPs who do nothing else during that time. Almost every day of the week there are seminars, speeches, events they get invited to. Also most have a quick dinner in their office and carry on working on their correspondence, reading etc. Being present in the House is a small part of what an MP does.

Secondly I would note that that few jobs have you working from 9 am to 10 pm – a 13 hour day instead of a eight hour day.

Thirdly the law change does not take away an entitlement to a meal break – it merely restores flexibility in what they are. This was the situation up until around ten years ago when Labour decided to pass law mandating inflexible breaks, which caused chaos in industries such as air traffic controllers.

One size fits all statutory requirements tend to be stupid, and Labour’s one was. 99.9% of employees will be unaffected by the law change.


On Labour’s Youth Employment Policy

August 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

Maybe your  readers can figure this one out….

Labour’s Youth Employment policy announced today includes  the Kick Start Apprenticeship scheme. This will offer a payment of $9,100 ( the equivalent of the dole) each time an employer provides a full time permanent job, salary and training to an unemployed youth who is 18 or 19, been on the dole for at least 3 months and is at medium to high risk of being on the dole full time. 

This might make sense if it weren’t for the fact  that Labour’s Work and Wages Policy will significantly increase the minimum wage and remove youth rates and 90 day trial periods! 

I can just see employers flocking to grab $9k for the privilege of putting huge effort into inexperienced  unmotivated youth with no comeback if they don’t work out, and paying them the same as experienced workers…..Not much chance of government being a player either as Labour has promised that government employers will to pay at least $18.40 to first time employees .  It will be cheaper to leave them on the dole!!!

Very good points. 90 day trials allow employers to take a risk on a young inexperienced voter.

Tags: ,

Why stop at a four day week – let’s go for one day

July 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A four-day working week promoted by one of Britain’s top doctors is a “radical” concept worthy of debate, considering the importance of a healthy work-life balance, a Canterbury health leader says.

A business leader in the region, however, says the idea is “nonsense” and imposing a rigid standard would be a backwards step.

Professor John Ashton, the president of the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health, told British media this week that “a mal-distribution of work” was damaging people’s health.

Ashton called for Britain to phase out the five-day week, saying it would help combat high levels of work-related stress and illness.

Too many people were working “crazy” hours and a significant number of people were not working at all, he said.

“We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families and maybe reduce [workers’] high blood pressure.”

Why stop at four days? Think how much better off we’d be if we only worked three days a week? Or two days? Why not one day a week?

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey, of the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), said it was “a challenging and thought-provoking idea” worthy of debate.

No its’ not.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said it was “nonsense” to suggest a four-day working week would solve everyone’s problems.

“I get a bit tired of people who just put straight lines in the sand. That is not how the world works these days. You deal with things on an individual basis. If someone in your workplace is [showing] signs of stress you deal with it,” he said.

“A young couple that might be paying off a mortgage with no kids might want to work 60 hours a week. It is all about being accommodating and flexible.”

Exactly. the idea of a law that sets a maximum working week for everyone is socialist nonsense.

Auckland manufacturing company Manson Marine & Engineering allows its staff to opt for four-day weeks once a month. Staff work 10-hour days that week and earn an extra 12 days off a year as a result.

That’s a great example of flexibility – at an individual company level.


Name and shame bad employers

June 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Businesses that breach employment standards could be “named and shamed” under Government proposals.

Some employers could also face jail sentences, steep fines, bans on doing business or seizure of equipment.

The options are laid out in a paper released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges wants to crack down on migrant worker exploitation.

About 17 per cent of employees report that they are not getting one of more of the minimum legal entitlements, including holiday entitlement, minimum wage or having an employment agreement.

The Labour Inspectorate says it is seeing growing evidence of “more serious and intentional” breaches, such as the exploitation of migrant workers and vulnerable groups.

In a discussion document, the ministry proposes a series of tougher sanctions.

It says current penalties – a maximum $10,000 fine for an individual and $20,000 for a company – are not high when used.

Between January 2008 and March 2013, labour inspectors took 69 cases to the Employment Relations Authority, and the average penalty was $2826.

Officials are canvassing opinion on the options, which include naming and shaming businesses that breach standards.

This would be for those who deliberately breach the law with “serious and harmful effects” or those who commit “moderate to serious” breaches. A similar policy was adopted in Britain in 2011.

Another option would extend financial penalties to deter unlawful behaviour and to ensure there is no financial gain from non-compliance.

Fines would also be targeted at individuals to stamp out “phoenixing” – when directors wind up a company and begin another to avoid enforcement.

I support all of these.

Most employers are good employers who treat staff well.

There are a small minority who are exploitative, especially of migrants. They breach labour and human rights laws. I think we do need to be tougher with the very bad employers.


90 day trials benefiting small businesses and disadvantaged job hunters

June 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Small businesses are more likely to hire disadvantaged job hunters since a 90-day trial period was introduced in 2011, research shows.

Recall Labour and Greens vow to abolish these, which would make us (off memory) the only country in the OECD without them.

A national survey of employers found that 72 per cent of those which used trial periods had not dismissed an employee during that time, while 27 per cent of employers had dismissed at least one worker during the trial period.

The report said smaller employers were most satisfied with the 90-day trial because they faced greater risks and costs when recruiting.

Larger employers benefited less, mainly because they had more robust recruitment processes and greater resources to manage risk, it said.

Under the 90-day trial, about one third of employers said they hired staff they would not have otherwise taken on.

The costs to an employer of a wrong staff hire can be quite massive, and job interviews are no substitute for seeing how someone actually performs.

Changes to the Holidays Act had partially met objectives and had minimal impact on firms’ costs, the report said.

Employers and unions said the ability to allow cashing up to occur and to transfer public holidays was sensible.

Didn’t the unions oppose the option of cashing up the 4th week of leave? Could never work out why – it gives employees more flexibility and choice.

Changes to union access and communication during collective bargaining had little impact on employers and unions and did not increase the number of problems reported.

Yet they claimed it would. Shows the recent changes have been minor, yet useful.



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.


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?


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.


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: , ,