NZ Labour Letter March 2015

11 Mar

The online publication of the New Zealand Labour Letter is provided as a service to Labour by AIL of New Zealand Ltd.

National Labour News

More employment cases will be litigated following a landmark Employment Court ruling that paves the way for tens of thousands of home care relief workers to receive the minimum wage and holidays, New Zealand unions predicted. Service and Food Workers Union took the winning case to court and national secretary, John Ryall said litigation to secure workers’ rights was now preferable to collective bargaining. "We decided there’s got to be a better way than (collective bargaining), said Ryall which he described as hopeless. "Every time we win one of these cases, someone stands up, and we discover a new detail of discrimination. I think these cases will continue, until such time as there is a collective bargaining system in place." CTU’s Helen Kelly agreed with the tactic of strategic litigation. "We have to rely on the minimum code – Minimum Wage, Holidays Act, Equal Pay Act – to get any sort of justice. This [latest ruling] is one of a series of cases, and we’ve got more planned," she said.

New employment laws that went into effect March 6 will leave workers worse off, warned union leaders. They said provisions of the controversial Employment Relations Amendment Act, which affects collective bargaining, will increase the opportunity for exploitation of workers. Among other changes, strict rules over breaks are eliminated and employers and workers can agree on the timing or duration of breaks and receive compensation for not taking a break. "This Government should be ashamed of itself. They do not care about New Zealand workers and they are determined to drive wages down in this country and removing their tea break and their lunch break is an absolute attack on every working person in this country," said CTU’s Helen Kelly. The legislation also removes the requirement for new staff to be employed under the collective agreement for the first 30 days and allows employers to walk away from collective bargaining. Others unions such as the NZ Nurses Organisation expressed similar concerns.

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Fast food workers of the world unite

10 Mar

International video features Unite Union and NZ Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway

International Women’s Day: Global standards needed to stop violence against women

10 Mar

Global standards needed to stop violence against women

Attacks against women’s dignity and safety at work and in society are widespread and growing, and few governments or employers are willing to take adequate measures to stop it. It is therefore urgent that unions actively support the call by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on violence against women for a universal legally binding instrument at the United Nations level.

On International women’s Day 2015 IUF affiliates in the Asia/Pacific region mobilized under the banner ‘Women for Peace’ in response to the resurgent militarism in the region and a militarization of politics that threatens democracy and further undermines the position of women and the fight for equality.

How many more reports and evidence are needed to show the links between precarious forms of employment and sexual harassment at work before the fundamental right to a safe workplace is respected? How many more studies are needed to document the extent of suffering and the losses to society generated by gender-based violence? How many more reports on violence against women and girls in armed conflicts are needed to persuade governments of their responsibility to protect women and children from those atrocities?

Read the full article here

Colombian sugarcane workers win permanent jobs following brutal attack on strikers

The IUF-affiliated SINTRAINAGO has won direct, permanent contracts for cane cutters at the Risaralda mill in western Colombia’s Cauca Valley. The breakthrough agreement was signed on March 5 following a brutal attack on strikers by state anti-riot forces and company guards.


Read more about this historic agreement iuf
Rampe du Pont-Rouge, 8, CH-1213, Petit-Lancy (Switzerland)

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Helen Kelly: Zero hour exploitation

9 Mar

The wellbeing of families is threatened when workers feel insecure, writes CTU president Helen Kelly.

Fast food workers are being exposed to more "insecure" agreements.

We have seen such public concern about the types of arrangements being used to exploit Kiwi workers lately.

Deductions from wages for runners at petrol stations and restaurants; zero hour contracts; breaches of minimum wage laws on farms and in hospitality; serious recurring accidents in industries such as forestry and farming; severe exploitation of our migrant workforce; and below living wages in important industries like aged care.

Is this the new normal?

All of these issues – hours, wages, deductions, and safety – would be regulated by collective bargaining, as they are in countries which recognise the importance of work to society and families. In countries such as Denmark – with high productivity and wages – collective bargaining is the mechanism that brings parties together to regulate labour practices, ensuring all sides to the bargain get a fair benefit.

This country has one of the most deregulated labour markets in the OECD and has some of the lowest collective bargaining coverage. The results are that competition between businesses can be won by exploiting the labour force, at a huge cost to us all. It seems likely this will only continue.

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Protest against bosses treaty Sat March 7

6 Mar

Message of Nationwide Day of Action on 7 March: ‘TPPA? No Deal!’

“An amazing 22 towns and cities across New Zealand have rallied to the call for a nationwide day of action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on 7 March”, according to Chantelle Campbell who is coordinating the national events for the ItsOurFuture network.

“We’ve got all the major cities on board again, as well as towns like Whitianga, Hokitika and Taumarunui.[i] This is five more places than the massive turnout we had in November last year, where more than 10,000 Kiwis protested against the TPPA in 17 parts of New Zealand.”

Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand Rachel Le Mesurier explained why they are co-sponsoring the day: “Oxfam New Zealand remains deeply concerned about the potential impacts of the TPPA, not least of all because of the precedent it could set for future trade agreements in the Pacific region.”

“Just this week the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr Anand Grover, spoke out about the health impacts of these agreements.”

Trade unions are also strongly supporting the call to action. National Secretary of the EPMU Bill Newson said his union is concerned about “the potential to compromise New Zealand economic and commercial sovereignty, effectiveness of our labour market and employment laws and the secretive nature of the draft agreement contents.”

For Murray Horton from the Campaign Against Foreign Control (CAFCA), who are also sponsoring the day, the TPPA “is a modern version of the aborted 1990s’ Multilateral Agreement on Investment. The MAI was defeated by a global campaign, including in NZ, which saw it for what it was – an attempt to formalise the privatisation and corporatisation of global governance. What is stake here is national sovereignty, and there is no more important subject.”

“Would the TPPA be OK if it wasn’t secret? Short answer: no. The secrecy under which it is being negotiated simply adds insult to injury”.

The details of times and places for events in each town are and facebook ….

Rachael Le Mesurier, Oxfam, 021741605

Ged O’Connell, Assistant National Secretary EPMU 0275328152

Murray Horton, CAFCA, (03) 3663988/ 0274 307742

Chantelle Campbell, ItsOurFuture, 0226027078

Minister to zero-hour employers: Rethink your rosters

3 Mar

By Anna Burns-Francis


Hardworking Kiwis keeping our fast-food and hospitality industries afloat are technically employed, but they’re not guaranteed any work.

They’re hired on zero-hour contracts, and for the second week in a row, Mohammad Ismail’s been given zero hours’ work at Burger King.

“It’s rubbish,” says Mr Ismail. “I only get $14.25 per hour – you can’t survive on it. No one would like to work for just two hours.”

So what does the Employment Minister Michael Woodhouse think of the contract?

“Of course we can legislate for all the rules, but can’t legislate for good employer practice,” says Mr Woodhouse. “I think this is bad for organisation as well – it must take an enormous amount of time, effort and cost.”

So would the minister work on a zero-hour contract?

“I have worked on casual as a student and on my return from an OE – they’re an important part of the workplace,” says Mr Woodhouse.

But casual contracts are not zero-hour contracts, which tie workers like Mr Ismail into full-time availability. When Mr Ismail doesn’t get offered a shift, he doesn’t work, and he doesn’t get paid.

“It’s really hard. You have to borrow money and get loans off people, and sometimes I don’t eat.”

Mr Woodhouse’s solution is to take some help from the Government, if you can get it.

“It might be possible that Mohammad has Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) opportunities available to him, but obviously everybody’s situation is different,” says Mr Woodhouse. “But it may be possible that he get support that way.”

He says he encourages employers to rethink their rostering practices.

There’s a stand-down period for WINZ assistance, so that wouldn’t really help employees like Mr Ismail.

Mr Woodhouse’s other solution for Mr Ismail is to get a new job.

“We have a growing job market, and I’m sure people like Mohammad will be able to take advantage of that,” says Mr Woodhouse.

If only it was that easy.

“People say it’s easy to find a job,” says Ms Ismail. “It’s not easy, it’s hard, but the rest of the company will [continue] to do the same thing, so we need to stop this.”

Mr Woodhouse says that there will be changes to employment law this year and is “quite happy to introduce legislation into the House in the middle of the year that would prohibit the worst excesses of the [zero-hours] practices that we find”.

Read more:

Watch the video for the full report from Anna Burns-Francis.

Read more:

Kiwis tied to zero-hour contracts speak out

3 Mar

More employees on zero-hour contracts have contacted Campbell Live complaining of how their employers can’t even promise them half a shift.

Employers say the contracts allow them flexibility, but for the employee it means turning up for a shift, even if that shift is only an hour long.

As the union gets into negotiations this week with fast food companies, Campbell Live wanted to ask how many employees are on zero-hour contracts, and how does that number impact on New Zealand’s low unemployment rate?

Watch the video for the full report from Anna Burns-Francis.Video- Kiwis tied to Zero Hour Contracts

KFC Screenshot


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