Thursday, August 12, 2010

Your Working Conditions Under Attack

[blogpost by Skyler - I work at the University of Auckland and below are my concerns for our workplace if the proposed changes to employment legislation go through. I have just sent a version of the below to all union members at the UoA encourgaing them to get behind the Fairness at Work campaign.]

Proposed changes to employment legislation will affect rights and conditions at UNIVERSITIES and elsewhere.
Help prevent these changes!

Since National got back into power they have been slowly but surely taking our workplaces back to the bad old days of the 1990s, when market forces rules over common sense and planning, and workers and their trade unions were treated as enemies. The poor performance of the Kiwi economy in the '90s and the financial meltdown of 2008 prove that the neo-liberal, 'market knows best' policies don't work - but the Nats and their Act partners are ploughing ahead with these policies anyway.

As a case study of how neo-liberalism affected workers read this background document for my union’s current campaign for a Fair Pay system for General staff at the University of Auckland.

Last month John Key announced the National Government's plan to drastically change employment law in New Zealand. If passed the changes will take away workers' rights, remove protections, cut pay, reduce holidays and diminish access to sick leave – you can read more about how the Nats are attacking workers' rights at the CTU’s Fairness at Work website

I believe these changes are just the beginning and National will do all it can to re-introduce its neo -liberal policies.

Specific concerns for the tertiary education sector

The government ha
s indicated that it would like to give funding to courses that directly benefit the economy. Firstly, how can we predict what skills and jobs we will need in the future?! Secondly, I fear that this move would devalue the Arts and Humanities cutting funding to programmes like philosophy and history. These disciplines play a vital role in our society, helping us understand our culture and ourselves. They help develop critical thinking, literacy and analytical skills – all of which are useful for individuals, society and employers. I see the role of a university as a critic and conscious of society. It’s a place where ideas are developed and skills learned. It’s not a corporation!

No right to appeal against unfair dismissal and unfair treatment at work
The government is introducing legislation into parliament that will give employers the right to sack any worker instantly during the first ninety days of their employment. Rights of appeal and processes for fair dismissal form part of our collective agreement. The 90 day 'fire at will' bill undermines negotiated processes, making all staff vulnerable. Di
smissals lower morale and make us afraid to speak out.

Four weeks annual leave threatened
Many NZ workers have only just won
this entitlement. Now there are plans to let employers buy back the fourth week. This could undermine our claim for more leave here at the University of Auckland. Staff who are overworked and underpaid will feel the pressure to trade their annual leave for money.

Union access

Staff and members of your union help and support you, and represent you when negotiating for better pay and conditions. The government has tabled legislation that would restrict union access to worksites. This will seriously undermine our ability to bargain collectively for improvements in our workplace, and threaten the union movement general
ly - increasing the power imbalance between workers and employers.

Fair pay for women

Women are under-represented in top University jobs, but the Pay Equity Unit that audits the pay gap and makes recommendations has been axed. Fair pay for women is off the agenda.

Rest and meal breaks
A new Bill would make the length and timing of rest and meal breaks negotiable. Research shows that regular breaks are vital for health and safety at work. The National Party supported standard meal breaks for all workers before the election, but now they've broken thei
r promise, and want to give employers more control over when and how you can take your breaks.

Tertiary education funding linked to student performance
There is a danger that institutions will seek to lift their funding by excluding students they think are less likely to succeed, and that pressure will be put on teachers to lower their standards so that students can pass their courses with poor performances.

Funding for night cl
asses axed
The government axed most of the funding for night classes. This deprives people of affordable opportunities outside work hours to lift their skills.

Sick leave
Doctors agree that requiring a sick leave certificate for just one day’s illness is unworkable. WARNING: this could be the government’s “loss leader”! This proposal is so unworkable that it
is probable the government has thrown it into a package of very real and serious reductions in work rights so that it can withdraw it and look moderate later.

Unions are committed to stopping these changes and building a New Zealand where we all enjoy fair rights at work, decent wages and access to strong public services. Please join the rally on Saturday the 21st of August and show your support for workers’ rights.

Auckland Fairness at Work Rally
1pm Saturday 21 August 2010
QE2 Square (bottom of Queen St, opposite Britomart)


Blogger maps said...

Thanks Skyler for posting this. I suspect it may disorient visitors to this blog who have become accustomed to seeing us discuss nineteenth rather than twenty-first century politics!

9:50 am  
Blogger Skyler said...

Thanks Maps - good to see at least you are interested in workers' rights - even if no one else is moved to discuss current pressing political issues!!! :-)

10:22 am  
Anonymous Maps said...

I wouldn't assume that others aren't interested - and there's quite a lot about the current confrontation between the unions and government on other websites. I notice this for instance:

10:33 am  
Anonymous Richard Taylor said...

Aren't unions bourgeois?

2:18 pm  
Blogger Chris Trotter said...

No, Richard, but that comment of yours certainly was!

And, Skyler, please, pay a visit to Bowalley Road!

And there's plenty more where that came from.

3:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you, Skyler. And outside Auckland:
1pm, Saturday 21st August
Civic Square
1pm, Saturday 21st August
Cathedral Square
11am, Sunday 22nd August
Assemble at Dental School, Great King Street
March to rally at the Octagon

9:23 am  
Anonymous Edward said...

Way to go skyler, an important protest indeed. Seems the latest raft of anti-worker policy rolled out by the government, and probably not the last. It is good to see people fighting this.

11:40 am  
Blogger Skyler said...

Thanks Chris - there are many good posts about the issues over at your blog :-)

12:32 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Chris I DIDNT say that - that is NOT my comment - BUT I have been in many jobs and you can see my comment about Unions (and who I was sacked myself - quite a few times actually) in the other post Skyler did - my point is that Unions can be good but they almost invariably become corrupted (as indeed most of the Communist parties did in the world) rather in the way Revisionism happened etc it is all very complex - but I didn't make that comment.

Unions can be and are part of the system of reform and moderation rather than radical action - but it is more complex than that.
In principle and theory they can be good - are in many cases...but they have many negative sides.

I was a Union delegate at the Freezing Works at one stage. Recall I have had about 50 or more jobs and I have had my own businesses. Most of my work was in factories and other things. Hand on - real work - not poofter crap. I have never worked as academic or in an office. I have worked as an engineering etc and earlier than that I was a lineman for the NZPO (now Telecom or Chorus etc)

Now the Unions in many cases betrayed workers - I could tell you about the Berger Paint (Panmure) strike we workers initiated in 1972 for safely and pay (but Skinner and the "official" union did NOT back us) also various actions at Hellabies -where in fact my father was also in the Head Office BTW (so I kew what was going on on BOTH sides so to speak - he doesn't appear in Scott's book as he was away but I was there in the late 60s and about 1970 and also I was at the Railway I have deep experience of Unions in action. At Hellabies etc the "Official Union" would call a strike - it was all a farce to enable Muldoon (best mate of Skinner - don't try and fool me - Skinner started with a dairy in my own street in Panmure the 1950s - I know all about Skinner) or whoever to denounce the Unions adn what he called Reds - but when the workers themselves took action we were eventually bullied back to work by the Union...

Of course unions can be a good thing and one can conceive some of them as working: BUT my and indeed my ex wife's experience of unions in MANY cases has not been good.

But I could go on I have talked about my own dismissal before and no one took any notice. Skyler replied to Jack Ross as she sees him as an important and influential academic who will help her and Maps in their careers - but ignored me. I am an old man of no account - I am seen as a joke.

It is all about who you know - but I have lot more to say on this complex issue.

And it was NOT me who made that stupid comment on here. Probably Maps when he was drunk...or someone else.. that crazy Trotskyite called Herb possibly - a lot of those Trotskyites were underground agents provocateurs and very dangerous - I don't trust hem....

A lot of those in union and academic worlds (there so called liberal and members of the Left - not necessarily looking at you or others...) have never even got their hands dirty (they have never really worked in the real sense - they are bloody Suits) - show me a man with dirty hands probably my best mate is a mechanic and hardly reads anything - I have never had any soft pen pushing poofter office job - life has been easy for them) and use the unions as a way to slowly infiltrate their way up or into the Labour Party or whatever...

They're as radical as Margaret Thatcher's rear end.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

By "Scott's book", I mean Dick Scott's book about Hellabies Meat Company.

10:42 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Richard, I wasn't ignoring you. I have answered you under the other post. It's just that I work and have been sick so I don't have a lot of time to write on blogs. Your comments are long and it takes some time to read them and then decide how to reply.

I think you have some valid points about the reluctance of some unions to take action esp. in the past. Unions are the workers and if they want to take action they should! Workers are the only ones who can make a difference - they've/we've got to want to change though and believe we can make a difference. Most are afraid, or don't believe they can make a difference or are apathetic. That's what unions face everyday and they have to try and motivate and support scared or apathetic workers into action. We need a mass of workers to make a difference and at the moment we don't have enough people who are motivated to change things. I hope this situation will change at some point.

I'm sorry you feel not listened to Richard and that you feel that way towards academics. I'm not an academic and have worked all my life in many different jobs - from a paper-round at 10, to a cleaning job at 12, working in a bakery at 15 and as a waitress at 16 and a cook at 19, to working as a videotape operator at 21 and then later in the fashion industry in different roles (sales, marketing and PR), to admin temp roles and now working at the university in communication and events roles. I've always worked hard and never not worked. I don't like your implication that I need to schmooze my academic friends to progress my career. I don't use people. I think you Richard have some valuable insights into working and union history and it would be received better if you weren't attacking me and others.

Anyway, I am sorry you felt ignored - I don't check the comments boxes everyday so it's only this morning I read your annoyance at me.

10:17 am  
Blogger Richard said...

My apologies. Clearly I was raving.

Jack is a good sort - I am not against academics!!

Just the bad ones! Just those who need reeducating...

Comrade Trotter is to be blamed (he stares at me with that powerful Napoleonic and deeply disturbing enigmatic aspect whose eyes bore into my soul causing me to say false things & bear false witness and have dark dreams - he seems the very incarnation of Balzac's character Vautrin (a strange and mysterious even cynical yet even "poetic" criminal who became chief of police in Paris in Balzac's "La Comedie Humaine" (~ 80 books it is made up of!) - [but just joking re C.T.] ...)))

...and I blame whoever put that blase "bourgeois" comment of "mine" up - mind you I might well have said that -

I support your efforts re the Unions etc but my other (non personal) comments remain valid.

I am not against unions as such - BUT I have had many negative experiences -

7:12 pm  

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