The problems with National and A.C.T. employment policies: PART 3


In Part 2 of my series on the problems I have with National and A.C.T.’s employment policies, I focussed on workplace accidents and support for those who are fatigued or stressed. In this third and final part, I examine issues that employers face in hiring staff and the problem of rife discrimination in the work place.

On a regular basis in the news we hear from employers who are unable to find the appropriate staff to work for them. An ongoing problem, it is one that stems from a number of surprisingly obvious decisions that economic planners have made over the years, which we are now reaping the consequences of. One, and perhaps the most obvious has been the failure of employers to do due diligence on recruitment, by not making sure that new employees have the necessary qualifications to do the job. I remember that at work on a couple of instances several years ago, temps were being used to help regular staff keep pace with the summer time workload; the vast majority were alright and lasted either until they moved on or we did need them any longer. However there was the odd temp that did not last their first shift. One or two did not have full driver licences, and were thus not legally able to drive cars; others lied to their recruitment agency…

Another has been unfortunately highlighted by a few rotten apples. Paying less than minimum wage in New Zealand is illegal, but there are companies that do. Some of them are small employers in labour intensive industries such as fruit picking, whilst others are fairly large companies.

National and A.C.T. in their ideological determination to remove all barriers – reasonable or not – to a deregulated market – would try to undermine not only the employees who work for these companies, but potentially the companies themselves. The company boards would most likely look to cut costs, and would struggle to appreciate the argument that can be made for paying staff properly and they will in turn look after the company. The current support by small businesses being shown to Labour suggest that at least some employers have rethought how they conduct their operations, post-COVID.

Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms. Sometimes it might be based on skin colour or gender, which would immediately place the offending staff/employer in front of a potential personal grievance. Sometimes it might be based on other characteristics such as how an employee gets on with their colleagues, or how old they are. Discrimination is banned in New Zealand, but in the course of ones working life, it is probable that they will met a victim of discriminatory tactics. No individual or employer is ever going to admit such tactics, since they obviously will not want whatever punishment that the court hands down.

Not all discrimination is intentional. Employees might not be aware of the effect something they said or did has had on a person. If one brings it to their attention

A.C.T. has said it will abolish the Human Rights Commission. In proposing to abolish the H.R.C. the A.C.T. Party has basically said it has no regard for the human rights of employees in the work place. It would mean one of the main organizations that one could go to for legal redress on matters of discrimination would not be able to help any longer. National have not gone quite this far, but commentary by people such as National Members of Parliament Chris Penk and Dan Bidois suggesting that breaks be repealed, suggest National M.P.’s have a mindset that employees should not have their human dignity.

Still want to vote for either of these parties?

The problem(s) with National and A.C.T. employment policies: PART 2


In Part 1 of the series on the problems I have with National and A.C.T.’s employment policies, I focussed on the lack of sick leave available in New Zealand, and why cutting the minimum wage will not work. In this part I examine work place accident policies and support for workers who are fatigued or stressed.

Work place safety is something of a hodge podge issue in New Zealand. There are employers who take their responsibilities to their workers very seriously. There are employers who do what they have to in order to stay compliant, but no more. And there are employers who are knowingly negligent. It is an matter that has attracted negative overseas attention as a result of accidents causing serious injury or death to foreign visitors, but also just as alarmingly, people from other countries working in New Zealand’s jurisdiction who have been short changed.

In some cases I am aware of, employees were not properly vetted to ensure that they were appropriately licenced to drive certain classes of vehicles. A bus requires a Class 5 heavy passenger vehicle licence as well as a P-Endorsement; a taxi driver needs a full drivers licence as well as the P-Endorsement. In a case I am aware of, the driver and owner of a bus that was stopped by Police did not have the necessary licences and that the licence shown was in another drivers name. More concerning is that since then there have been at least two fatal bus crashes involving drivers not from New Zealand, nor necessarily familiar with New Zealand road conditions. Such accidents have the potential to harm our tourism industry as these will be seized upon by the media in the country that the tourists originated from.

It is not just tourists though, who suffer. The high seas off the coast of New Zealand have an unfortunate reputation for being a sort of “wild west” where anything goes in terms of occupational safety and health. A series of accidents in the last decade involving fishing trawlers that are not seaworthy go some way towards highlighting this. In particular I am thinking of three Korean fishing trawlers from the Oyang Corporation – No. 70, 75 and 77 – that were loaned to a N.Z. fishing company Southern Storm. No. 70 sank off the coast of Dunedin. No. 75 was forfeit to the Crown in 2012 after the crew won a court case over not being paid. As was No. 77 for similar reasons in 2014.

The problem I have is that National and A.C.T. have a track record of “cutting red tape” in the name of freeing up businesses from legal requirements. Sometimes the cuts are justified, but more often than not, there is a cost to pay. They claim that the market will police itself in terms of complying with occupational safety and health. They claim that the worst offenders will go under because they will have no work. All too often the market has shown it:

  1. Does not know how to police itself
  2. WILL not police itself – if it did many of the cases that wind up in the employment court would be resolved long before that stage

The other issue I want to address is the case of work place fatigue. This is a particularly relevant matter at the moment with COVID19 having caused huge impacts on peoples lives, both at home and at work. For many families this has been their annus horribilus in that the disruption brought on by a necessary lock down has pushed not only working age people, but also their families to the limits.

Workplace fatigue is dangerous. It can lead to accidents. It can lead to negligence, whilst not immediately causing an accident could be a contributing factor to a future accident. It can lead to generally lower working standards. Fatigue has numerous symptoms, including lack of concentration, sluggishness, poor decision making, indifference in attitude among others.

Neither party have released an policy specific to this, but it is probably not necessary. A combination of having workplace working conditions reduced as they have outlined in other policies, such as A.C.T.’s plan to cut the minimum wage, National’s dislike of breaks at work, could be enough to push a person in a fragile position over the edge. A person needs enough income that they are able to afford the necessities of life, which is something Mr Seymour and his Deputy Brooke Van Velden seem determined to not understand. If they have the necessities of life, then their quality of life and the likelihood that it will improve their quality of employment, will likely improve.

The problem(s) with National and A.C.T. employment policies


National and A.C.T., clearly not having learnt a thing about low income employees and why some of the socio-economic problems we have, exist, are proposing an array of destructive employment policies.

There are numerous problems with those policies which I list below and which I will then attempt to explain in greater depth:

  • New Zealand workers have comparatively little sick leave compared to most countries in the O.E.C.D., with just 5 paid sick days per annum
  • New Zealand incomes have not risen fast enough to keep pace with increases in G.S.T., inflation and other income hostile factors
  • Work place accidents each year cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. Some are pretty minor, such as a sprained ankle and a day or two off work, whilst the worst ones involve death and sometimes significant destruction of property
  • An employee who is fatigued or stressed is more accident prone than someone who has regular breaks
  • Employers constantly complain about not being able to find appropriately trained staff
  • Discriminatory practices despite being illegal are rife in the work place if the number and seriousness of complaints that result in court proceedings are anything to go by

In this article I examine the first two.

Whilst New Zealand is better than the United States which has no Federally mandated sick leave, the 5 days sick leave we are entitled to is comparatively little compared to other countries. Australians get 10 days sick leave per annum, which rolls over to the following year if not fully used. 145 nations provide some kind of sick leave for employees and 127 provide a week or more annually.

In a year like 2020 where COVID19 has made staying at home if one is sick essential even if the symptoms are not COVID-related, means an already relatively small amount of sick leave can be expended quickly. If a person then gets sick a second time, having already needed a week off work, they will not have any leave to fall back on. The move to introduce another 5 days of sick leave, giving us 10 is therefore welcome.

Despite this there are people in National and A.C.T. who think that the business community is going to be made to suffer unnecessarily. Actually many in the business community believe that they need to treat their employees better, particularly those in sectors that were essential for the functioning of the country in this COVID19 emergency.

David Seymour, Leader of the A.C.T. Party wants to cut the minimum wage to $17.70/hr from the current $18.96/hr and freeze it for 3 years.

Our wages are not rising fast enough to keep pace with G.S.T., inflation and other income-hostile factors. Whilst G.S.T. only goes up if a political party -usually National – win the election, it is unnecessarily harsh on those with low incomes. A person on $30,000 per annum before tax, they will $24,750 after income tax. If they go to the service station and puts $50 of petrol in their car, person will pay 0.167% of their annual income just buying that petro. A person on $90,000 per annum goes to the same service station and puts $50 of petrol in their car. and will use 0.02% of their annual income.

If that low income person also has to pay $200 a week in rent; $75 for groceries, with the fuel added in, that will be $325 per week. This says nothing about power, internet, any medication, clothing or other expenditures that they have to cover.

It makes me wonder if any of the National M.P.’s or Mr Seymour have worked a minimum wage job when I see these suggestions.

The “brain drain” fear is back – or is it?


The “brain drain” fear is back. That old fear/fear mongering of New Zealand losing its best and brightest people – scientists, economists, entrepreneurs, among others – to overseas nations, including and especially Australia, is back.

Or is it? In which case it depends on who you ask. National leader Judith Collins certainly thinks the brain drain danger has returned. For years there was this idea that all of the brightest New Zealanders who could afford to leave were doing so. They were handing in their resignations, chasing up friends who had already left, checking their bank accounts and applying for visas to Canada, Europe, United Kingdom, United States, where they would being a new life working, making money and travelling. Far more serious than a Contiki bus trip that would go to a host of tourist hotspots before the travellers return to their countries of origin, we see people buying one way tickets to another country.

Perhaps the brain drain is simply a National Party attack vehicle to enable them to get at the Government’s economic policies. Perhaps, just as it was heavily used by her National Party predecessors during past stints on the Opposition benches, Ms Collins is using it now to try to gain leverage in a political environment that is not very friendly to unrepentant conservatism. Certainly I can recall former National Party leader Bill English using it during the early part of the 2000’s to criticize the leftist Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark. His successor in that role Dr Don Brash and later former Prime Minister John Key also used it.

In all of these instances it was about the Government’s anti-business attitude; their tax policy; how red tape will ruin New Zealand; how we cannot afford the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process; how our social welfare policy sucks up untold billions. Yet, the moment Labour are not in office, the “brain drain”, is suddenly no longer an issue.

But how seriously do people want to move to Australia at the moment? Since March, New Zealand has gained massive respect from millions of people around the world for its firm line on COVID19. It has seen political commentators who normally have little to do with New Zealand praising the country for its reaction. A response led by Government that for a change put science front and centre. Too often we do not give our scientific community the respect they deserve, and Labour, like National are guilty of using science when it suits them.

Since the Ardern Government began in 2017, new words not normally in political language – kindness and compassion – have entered mainstream political conversations. The 2019 mosque attack, the Whakaari/White Island eruption and now this have all combined to show that whilst Labour-led Governments can be a bit of a challenge to businesses, they address some of the social issues National are less inclined to. So whilst a brain drain is sometimes attached to Labour-led Governments, a social drain sometimes happens on the watch of National-led Governments.

Government changes election date


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has changed the date of the 2020 General Election to 17 October 2020

The change in the election date follows pressure from National, A.C.T. and New Zealand First to move the election to November so that the political parties would have more campaign time in the current COVID19 environment.

There are numerous good reasons why the change happened in the manner it did:

  • Auckland cannot participate whilst in a LEVEL 3 lock down as no facilities would be open to enable voting and candidates and parties would not be able to campaign effectively
  • Pushing back four weeks will give candidates time to get around their electorates and “Meet-the-Candidate” sessions to be held in each electorate, where the public can ask questions of them
  • The Government would want to be sure that the current COVID19 outbreak has been resolved and New Zealand is once again operating relatively normally
  • In terms of timing, the Government could afford to allow some leeway – the latest Parliament could have continued prior to yesterday’s announcement was 12 October at which point it would dissolve automatically.

And yet, the conspiracy theorists are out. To them this is another indicator of some sort of conspiracy to deprive New Zealanders of their freedoms. Despite the numerous articles written by Stuff journalists such as Henry Cooke and Luke Malpass among others, New Zealand Public Party seem convinced that something improper is afoot.

But despite the conspiracy theorists being at work, the parties in Parliament all welcomed the move and generally believe that the Prime Minister got the timing about right. I believe it is a fair call to have made. It would not have been proper for 2/3 of New Zealand to plunge ahead with election campaigning and leave Auckland behind, especially when its electorates are some of the key ones to watch in 2020.