Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fighting the good fight

The New Zealand Labour Party is fighting a move by Prime Minister John Key to take away workers’ rights to breaks. John Key is determined to do this and is rushing it through Parliament, but Labour is opposing him, as it should.

John Key’s spin is that workers and employers can “negotiate”, but that’s impossible for low-wage workers who have to accept whatever their employer offers. But, come to that, how many workers EVER “negotiate” basic terms and conditions? For most wage workers, employment contracts are almost always presented as a done deal—take it or leave it. I personally don’t know any wage worker who has ever negotiated basic terms and conditions, like breaks. Maybe some have, but it’s not nearly as common as John wants us to believe.

So, as is usually the case, John Key is being dishonest with New Zealanders. Most ordinary workers will lose the automatic right to breaks, and that’s the reality that John and National are either lying about or utterly unable to comprehend.

The Labour Party has set up an online petition with a goal of 50,000 signatures by tomorrow. This evening they promoted it on Facebook with the graphic above and said they needed 2500 signatures to meet their goal. When I looked (and signed) a little while later, they needed just over 800. Ultimately, John Key will do whatever he wants to, but it’s good to make him—and the news media—aware that he has opposition. Labour will no doubt repeal this bad law when it is next in government.

That graphic, by the way, is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It presents the issue in clear, easy to understand and relate to terms, and provides a simple, low-commitment action. It’s exactly what you’d want to see in a web graphic of this sort.

Taking away workers’ rights to meal and rest breaks is only one of the things that John Key is doing TO New Zealand. Unlike many of his other attacks on ordinary New Zealanders, this one began before the election. So, since New Zealanders voted for John Key’s government, I guess Kiwi voters are okay with giving up their rest and meal breaks on a company’s whim because John wants them to do so. I won’t say “I told you so,” because John actually did that months ago.

Instead, I’ll say the obvious: It’s going to be a VERY long three years.

Update 30 October: John Key has successfully passed his bill to take away breaks from workers. This was predictable, of course, but it says quite a lot about John Key and his National Party that the VERY first bill they passed is an assault on workers. That's no surprise, of course, but it says a lot. The graphic below posted to Facebook by the New Zealand Labour Party pretty much sums it up.

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