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.

A once in a generation election?


Slightly less than weeks out from the election of 2020, assuming the current One News Colmar-Brunton poll continues to hold, New Zealand could be looking at a once in a generation electoral landslide. For the first time since Mixed Member Proportional was introduced, New Zealand might be about elect a majority party Government where a single party has enough seats to govern alone.

Whilst it is true New Zealand has come close in the in past, getting near the 61 seat majority mark is one thing. Crossing it is quite another.

National nearly achieved this in 2011 and 2014. In the 2011 General Election it won 59 seats; up one from the 2008 General Election result; Labour slumped from 42 seats down to 34, which were picked up by a resurgent New Zealand First and the Green Party. In 2014 National reached 60 seats, but lost one to the Greens in a recount. Labour were reduced further to 32 seats. Even in 2017, despite not being chosen by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as their coalition partner, National still managed 56 seats.

If Labour did somehow secure 61 or more seats in the House of Representatives, it would be the first time since 1994 that a major political party has achieved a majority. It would raise significant public expectations about what policies might be achieved because Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern has much mana with New Zealanders across the spectrum and is widely respected by non-New Zealanders as well. Significant areas that voters would want to see movement on are reforming/replacing the District Health Boards; improving the supply of housing for ordinary New Zealanders; reducing poverty and addressing how our energy sector will look in the era of climate change. Given that at the 2023 election one should expect National to have found a person who can challenge Ms Ardern by then, and have some more realistic policies than their current shambles, I expect much of the ground that Labour will probably gain at this election will be clawed back.

This may be a once in a generation election for other reasons too. The number of new political parties that have formed in the last 12 months to take on the larger parties is quite impressive. Whilst none are polling close to the 5% threshold for entry into Parliament, or are likely to win an electorate seat, they are likely – between them – to chip away enough votes that New Zealand First will probably not get into Parliament; that New Conservative will be the largest party outside Parliament.

Advance New Zealand/New Zealand Public Party will be the one New Zealanders watch most warily, not least because of the incandescent bile being jetted by some of their supporters. There has been at least one case of people suggesting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should be assassinated, which not surprisingly got the Police involved. There have also been Advance/N.Z.P.P. gatherings that have caused community leaders who have a social media profile to be concerned for their well being, because of their support for the Government response to COVID19.

Even if no new parties in New Zealand get into Parliament, it is certainly going to make for a lively two remaining working weeks before we find out what New Zealanders really think.

Why no one should be pleased about Trump having COVID19


United States President Donald Trump was yesterday diagnosed with COVID19, along with his wife First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump. Several key White House staff including an aide of Mr Trump, Hope Hicks have also tested positive for it.

There are people around the world and in the United States who will be happy that Mr Trump has been diagnosed with COVID19. They are happy for a number of reasons, not least they hope that it will teach Mr Trump to have some compassion for those who have had COVID, to develop some humility in the face of an unforgiving illness that has rocked America in ways its physical enemies could only dream about. They are happy because they hope that it will derail his Presidential re-election campaign and give Democrat nominee Joe Biden a better chance.

There are people who are happy here in New Zealand as well as in the United States, who wish worse on Mr Trump. Some say it is karma and that Mr Trump deserves everything that COVID19 might try to do to him. Some even go so far as to say outright that he should die.

I disagree. Vehemently.

Mr Trump having COVID19 will do no one anywhere in the world any favours. It will not bring back the 208,000 people who have died in the United States or cure the many hundreds of thousands of active cases that it has kicked up. It will not undo the eternal grief of nurses and doctors who have had to make devastating decisions about who can be saved and who should be let go; the morgues and crematorium who have to handle the remains of the deceased. Nor, despite Mr Trumps actions being largely responsible for the unholy mess that the United States now finds itself in, will wishing death on the President do anything to immediately stop the socio-economic schism now trying to form in what we referred to as the land of the free.

There are stridently anti-Trump voters here in New Zealand who will be breathing a sigh of relief. Their nemesis, their nightmare has some how been floored by COVID19.

I am not sure why they will be happy. We have a much more immediate issue here: the 2020 General Election. We have our own problems to be focussing on. With housing, social welfare, poverty, the environment, rebuilding the economy, keeping non-N.Z. political influences at bay and of course the rabble that is Advance New Zealand/N.Z. Public Party.

But also, how many of Mr Trumps many many detractors have looked at the credentials of Mr Michael Richard Pence, Vice President and the man who will succeed Mr Trump if he is incapacitated and no longer able to fulfil his role? How many people have looked who is next in line after Mr Pence, should he be incapacitated? Nancy Patricia Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives. And in the oft chance that she is incapacitated? Benjamin Solomon Carson Snr., currently Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Mr Pence is an ardent Christian evangelist. His son is in the United States Marine Corps. He is anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, pro-gun and denies climate change. In many respects his views on Iran are harsher than those of Mr Trump.

As bad as Mr Trump is, there are worse people who could succeed him. Are you sure you want that?