Danger Will Robinson Danger

The Herald reports:

Strikes and lockouts will be banned during bargaining negotiations under the Government’s new Fair Pay Agreement collective bargaining system.

This sounds good but in fact it is very bad. What they are not mentioning is that the industry agreements will be compulsory through arbitration. Strikes are bad. But at least with a strike you still get to make a choice as an employer about accepting the agreement or enduring the strike action.

Labour’s policy is for an arbitrator to be able to impose an industry agreement on an industry if the employers and unions can’t agree. This is a radical change to the decades old principle that no party should be able to be forced into an agreement.

Former National prime minister Jim Bolger will chair the working group set up to make recommendations on its design.

It’s a return to 1970s labour laws, so who better than the 1970s Minister of Labour!

I have huge affection for Jim Bolger, but I should point out that his personal politics today seem not that far removed from say Helen Clark’s. The last time I heard him speak, most of it seemed to be denouncing neoliberalism.

Who is on the working group?

• Rt Hon Jim Bolger – 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand, former Minister of Labour
• Dr Stephen Blumenfeld – Director, Centre for Labour, Employment and Work at Victoria University
• Steph Dyhrberg – Partner, Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law
• Anthony Hargood – Chief Executive, Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union
• Kirk Hope – Chief Executive, BusinessNZ
• Vicki Lee – Chief Executive, Hospitality NZ
• Caroline Mareko – Senior Manager, Communities and Participation, He Whānau Manaaki o Tararua Free Kindergarten Association
• John Ryall – Assistant National Secretary, E tū 
• Dr Isabelle Sin – Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington
• Richard Wagstaff – President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

I’m unsure of the wisdom of having business representatives take part in a working group, whose job is to bring back 1970s national awards. Would union representatives take part in a working group whose job it is to abolish the minimum wage for example?

I guess the logic is that things will be even worse if they don’t take part constructively. But they need to be careful that their involvement isn’t seen as indicating the business community wants a return to national awards.


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