Guest Post: Labour’s Detailed 1970’s Industrial Relations Manifesto

This is a guest post by a Kiwblog reader. I urge people to read this to understand how massive a change there will be if win. 

Ardern and Andrew Little (remember him – he’s the ashen union man who will be in charge of small business and ‘new economy’ in NZ)  are going to make NZ workers and businesses an offer they can’t refuse.

Ardern didn’t want to talk about Labour’s manifesto in the first debate. For very good reason. Adern and Little are dragging NZ back to the dank, grey 1970’s. Whether we like it or not. We’re going back to a Lotto strike economy. Labour are handing NZ gift-wrapped in red tape back to the unions.

Here is what Labour’s announced detailed industrial relations manifesto says:

Within 12 months labour will create a statutory regime of union bargaining powers and National Awards which will set union minimums for every detail of employment in industries: wages, allowances, weekend rates, hours of work, leave, ‘fair overtime’ etc.

Labour are calling these ‘Fair Pay Agreements’. This is an offer industry cannot refuse. They either take a seat at the table, or not. National awards are going ahead. You can ‘opt out’ if you change industry. At least until it’s that industries turn to be called to the table.

Every business in or outside National Awards is going to be playing Labour’s union lotto strike because the manifesto says, within 100 days of government, Labour will on behalf of members:

  • “Restore unions’ rights to initiate collective bargaining in advance of employers” – so unions can use the law to start the strike machine to get what they want without an employer’s agreement.
  • “Restore the duty on parties…in collective bargaining…to reach an agreement…” – so if the unions start it, the employer must finish it, by law – and the minimums will be set by national industry awards. So I suppose if employer’s don’t want to accept the offer they can’t refuse, they’ll be taken to court. If your particular business cannot meet those minimums, I suppose you’ll have to shut down, fire your employees, be smart, and join a union.

Every business is going to be de facto unionised, because within 100 days of government, Labour will also:

  • Protect the human right to belong to a union…” – Labour will allow forced union entry to workplaces
  • Ensure union workplace reps reasonable time within the workplace…to carry out their representative role“.
  • Bring in tough ‘anti-discrimination’ laws to allow union membership; and
  • Ensure new workers ‘have access to’ unions at the commencement of employment.

If you’re a scab outside the union you get nothing, because within 100 days Labour have said they will “…strengthen the integrity of collective bargaining by tightening the rules on employers automatically passing on terms and conditions to non-union workers“.

They are serious about this because “within the first 12 months in Government labour will (also)”:

Review bargaining fee arrangements to ensure they are fair to workers, the union and employers for the extension of collective bargaining outcomes to non-unionised workers“. It’s very clear and stark if you’re a worker. If you want your coal, you’ll pay the toll. If you want to get ahead, you’re going to have to play the game.

Even without all the coercion, it’s a cascade. Once one industry has it’s national award, every other industry must follow or lose workers. Once the unions start the train, everyone has to join and pay the fees and go to the meetings or they won’t get the spoils.

Labour are making an offer workers and NZ businesses cannot refuse.

How extensive will Ardern and Little’s ‘new economy’ be? From BrandNZ to UnionNZ?

Within 12 months Labour are:

  • extending collective bargaining rights to contractors who sell their labour.

The biggest industry of labouring contractors is construction. So NZ’s construction industry is going to be like that photo of 20 orange vests watching one in green dig the hole when we’re meant to be building 100k houses. The other biggest industries are tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and IT. Labour also are going to:

  • “Investigate measures that improve job security for people in precarious forms of employment they list labour hire, casual, seasonal, contracted or sub-contracted workers. So forget about new-fangled commercial ideas like KPI’s and contractual milestones, termination clauses and risk allocation. Labour is replacing all of that with what Grant says, which is what the unions say. Labour are extending de-facto unionism to every class of work there is.

So the unionization of NZ will be all-encompassing, and inescapable. It’s a secret offer NZ cannot refuse.

There is even more. Labour will “abolish youth rates“. It’s bad enough paying a 17 year old the same as their mum for a job the mum has 20 years experience doing. Now the 17 year old presumably will get the National award. This is going to carve out a swathe of youth unemployment.

Labour will ensure “people who work over 40 hours a week receive adequate remuneration“. So Labour are getting rid of the ‘salary’ concept, and are going to micro-manage all overtime. Also this will not extend to business owners, who as everyone knows, work 35 hour weeks for ‘adequate remuneration’.

Labour are going to “double the number of inspectors from 55 to 110 over our first term” and increase their resourcing to enforce union law and prosecute breaches.

Labour are also going to “regardless of size or industry” force all businesses to allow “workers to elect a health and safety representative…”. So if you employ one worker who sells pens – he’s your H&S rep.

There’s NZ nicely gift wrapped in red tape.

Perhaps the most incredible assertion of incoming union power and control over New Zealand’s economy is this. Within the first 100 days Labour will:

Require all state agencies to only contract with organizations that comply with good employer practices, have a history of adhering to employment legislation, and respect the right of their workers to join a union and bargain collectively“.

Blatant, open, jobs for the boys. Who can be the most union friendly? If you play Labour’s lotto strike by their rules, you might get the lotto prize of a government contract. If you resist, onto the black-list and no tender win, into the courts or the newly empowered ERA, and strikes.

Labour have also said they will only work with organizations that can pay a living wage “begin work with organisations that have regular and ongoing service contracts…to ensure they are Living Wage employers”.

So Labour is only going to work with the union favorites, and with the big players. Small businesses that can’t afford to pay whatever Grant decides is a living wage are gone.

All of this is something utterly different to the government’s recent work with Kristine Bartlett. That was only government. This is a fundamental forced, secret transformation of NZ’s entire economy back to the 1970’s. Labour also plan apparently to pay ECE teachers the same as engineers via ‘pay equity’.

This is far in excess of Labour under Clark. This is something unprecedented. What is certain is inflation, unemployment, business failures, and strikes – a NZ we haven’t seen since 1970. Ardern is a 37 year old taking us back to 1947 Australia, and she may not even realise it.

2 industries per year as Ardern put it in the debate, might cover the construction industry and hospo industry. Within 2 years it’s most of the important parts of the economy.  Ardern said ‘no strikes’. Labour’s actual policy says not only mass strikes, but much, much, more. This is not scare-mongering. This. Is. What. It. Says.

The most amazing thing? Even after the National awards, the union can still strike or use the courts for more, and they will. That’s what happens in Australia. Nothing can get done without the union cut.

Ardern guaranteed there will be no strikes.

Labour’s actual established detailed policy, written by its union funders, absolutely 100% guarantees strikes, and worse, being taken to court and blacklisted from govt contracts. How can Ardern guarantee no strikes when the strikes are the entire point of collective bargaining. Maybe she just means the union can sue everyone into oblivion.

Unions have a role to play. But forcing everyone into a union and handing unions the government and the economy again, like 50 years ago, is a massive retrograde error. We had to get past this as a country, and it was extremely painful. We’re being given a secret offer we can’t refuse to go back to 1947.

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