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FROM AWSM: The National Government recently announced a series of new attacks on workers across New Zealand. The raft of proposed changes to the anti-worker Employment Relations Act (ERA, brought in by the previous Labour Government in 2000) and the Holidays Act will serve to further cut job security, wages and conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers in both the public and private sectors.

What are the changes?

Perhaps the biggest change is the expansion of the 90 day fire at will scheme. Under this, any worker can be fired within the first 90 days of employment without any way to legally challenge this. When originally introduced following the 2008 election, this only applied to workers in workplaces with 19 or fewer employees (around 1/3 of the total workforce) however the proposed expansion would see it cover all workplaces. Since it was brought in, approximately 22% of workers hired under the scheme have been fired within 90 days, many given neither a reason nor a warning of what was about to occur, leaving them financially screwed.

A number of changes have also been proposed to the personal grievance process and the way the Employment Relations Authority works. All these changes make it harder for workers to challenge harassment, unjust firings and other problems and while making it easier for the bosses to get their way in a system that is already slanted in their favour.

We will also be pressured into working more often. The time honoured tradition of pulling a sickie is under attack (see elsewhere in this issue of Solidarity for details). Meanwhile, the 4th week of annual leave will soon be able to be exchanged (for cash), as will public holidays (for other days). National is declaring that both of these exchanges must be initiated by the employee, but in reality many workers will no doubt be pressured by their bosses into making them, especially those workers in the first 90 days of their contracts who are in constant fear of being fired! This all adds up to more work for an already overworked population.

Workers who want to join a trade union may find it much harder if the proposed changes go through. Unions will require permission from the employer before they can set foot on the property, meaning it will be especially difficult for unions to get onto sites where they don’t already have members. Additionally, companies will be able to communicate directly with workers during collective bargaining meaning yellow unions (unions run by the company) may become more common, with the associated drop in wages and conditions.

Separate from this lot of law changes but also coming up soon is a private members bill from National MP Tau Henare, which would place further restrictions on strike activity. The bill, which would force unions to hold secret ballots for all strike activity, would give bosses another avenue with which to have strikes declared illegal, at a time when workers are already heavily restricted in their choice of industrial activity by the ERA.

What can we do?

  • Talk to your workmates: Build a culture in your workplace where you all support each other when there’s an issue, even if it only effects one or two people. Collectivise problems – it’s much harder for the boss to ignore a larger number of workers.
  • Take industrial action where possible: Work to rules, go slows, taking lunch breaks at the same time, strike activity and more. As workers we produce the wealth that lines our bosses pockets – by threatening that profit we can force bosses to give into our demands. When we do engage in industrial activity, make sure it is controlled by us, not by trade unions. While unions can sometimes be useful (for legal protection, resources etc), industrial activity is our weapon, not theirs, and should be controlled by us without interference.
  • Support other workers’ struggles: We’re all in this together, and one strong workplace won’t be enough. If you hear of another workplace that’s going out on strike, and you can make the picket line, go and stand with them. If you can’t, support them in other ways – there may be a strike fund you can donate to, or even just go in when they’re not striking and let the workers know that you support them.
  • Don’t rely on the trade unions or the Labour Party: The response of the Council of Trade Unions (the umbrella body for NZ unions) to these latest attacks has been pitiful. They have announced they will distribute 20,000 copies of a “Fairness at Work” leaflet – not even enough to reach 10% of their affiliate unions’ membership, let alone the millions of ununionised workers. The Labour Party introduced the anti-worker ERA in its last term in power and has shown time and time again that it is no friend to the working class. In opposition it may encourage members to attend protests, but in Government it’ll just be more of the same.
  • This is our fight: These attacks impact on all of us who are forced to work to survive. We, the working class, must stand together and fight in our workplaces to not only protect what little we have, but to create a better future for us all. Separate we will fall, but together we have a chance to win.

PROTEST: Christchurch: August 8th, 12PM. Cnr of Colombo and Hereford. More details to be confirmed. Nationwide protest on August 21st.

The Government has proposed a broad sweep of changes to labour laws, including the option of workers to cash in one week’s annual leave for extra money and allowing bosses to interrogate employees they suspect they are pulling a sickie.

The government’s plan includes changing the processes required for disputes under the Employment Relations Act to put less of a burden on employers to stick to the exact letter of the required steps.

Employers will no longer necessarily lose cases over  their disregard of the law as long as the process overall was ‘fair and reasonable and gave the worker a fair chance’. The Employment Relations Authority will also be able to kick out ‘vexatious and frivolous’ claims early on and will be moved to a more judicial process, allowing cross examination of witnesses.

Employers will also be able to require workers to provide proof they are sick at any time, rather than having to wait for three consecutive days. The current law allows bosses to request proof only if someone if off sick for three consecutive days.

Workers will also be able to ‘transfer’ an official public holiday to another day – however they do not get extra pay if they work the actual public holiday but can choose to take another day instead.

Penalties for employers who breach the Holidays Act will increase to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for companies.

The major change that will effect workplace organising and workers rights is that union access to the workplace is now on the consent of the Employer only.


The government has new attacks on workers in the pipelines: restrictions on union access to workplaces and an extension of the 90-day fire at will bill to more workplaces. Trade unions have come out strongly against this proposal. Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the restrictions on union access to workplaces was a serious attack on the right of New Zealand workers to organize. “National have now dropped any pretense of moderation in their policies – the phoney war is over and National’s agenda of tax cuts for the rich, privatization and now tearing up the basic rights of working people is out there for all to see.” More ] 

Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson saiys “the Fire at Will law means that an employer doesn’t need to give any reason whatsoever for dismissing a worker. ‘Letting someone go’ can be the offensive euphemism for getting rid of a worker who stands up for their right to a safe workplace or wants to join a union.” 

What this means is that employers will be able to hire a new employee every 90 days, evading pay rises, holiday pay and sick leave, annual leave and all the other rights one has to earn through long term employment. Higher turnover means lower pay rates and more cash in the hands of the employers. And to add the icing on the cake they’ll stop anyone raising these concerns with the denial of workplace access (union or not).

A collated and ready to print version of ‘Beyond Representation’ is free to download HERE.

Following on from the release of our document: Beyond Representation — tactics for building a culture of resistance in Aotearoa (see below), Beyond Resistance invites you to a two day Regional Hui to establish such a network.

The date for this Hui will be Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th September in Otautahi/ Christchurch.

Loosely the idea would be to establish a single network with those who agree with the principals of direct action, solidarity, self-management/promotion of self-activity, workplace and community assemblies, co-operation and mutual aid. This network could act as a resource base and for agitation, enabling better communication, solidarity and organisation in struggle, whether in the workplace or the community.

If it became successful it may evolve into one broader national network with local/regional branches within it.

There are solidarity networks that have been established internationally, that we have drawn inspiration from e.g. Seattle Solidarity Network (

Solidarity Federation in the UK has also inspired and influenced our thinking and is another example of some of the ideas we envision (

What we propose is for the Hui to run over two days. Day one could be dedicated to ideas about a network, with examples, plus education i.e. films, workshops and discussion on the ideas/tactics of solidarity networks. Day two could be dedicated to discussion and brainstorming, working to establish a local and/or regional/national network, ending with its formation.

If you would like to register, submit ideas, be involved with organising, assist with workshops and/or participate in this Hui please get in touch with us at otautahianarchists (at)

We have also set up an email list for those interested in participating in discussion about the network as well as “Beyond Resistances strategies” and activities more generally. If you would like to subscribe please send an email to the link below and follow the prompts.

If you are thinking of attending from out of town please let us know, as we can help with organising accommodation, travel equalisation and childcare if you are thinking of bringing children.

Beyond Resistance is committed to creating safer and child friendly spaces so please feel welcome to bring the kids.

In solidarity,
Beyond Resistance.

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