RICHARD PREBBLE'S Letter from Wellington
Monday, 04 December 2000
ACT is giving New Zealanders the opportunity to have their say on accident compensation. ACC spokesman and ACT Deputy
Leader, Ken Shirley, believes (and select committee submissions support) that many New Zealanders enjoyed the dramatic
levy drops and less adversarial claim environment that nine months of limited competition produced. The discussion paper
will be launched at 1pm on Wednesday and will be viewable at http://www.act.org.nz/action/acc.html
Trouble At The Wharf
The Letter understands that the New Zealand Waterfront Workers Union will be picketing again tomorrow, this time in
Timaru. The media spin will be that the workers are trying to protect 'local' jobs. In reality it is a demarcation
dispute. For over thirty years members of the Waterfront Union have been flown around New Zealand to even out work for
wharfies. However, under ACT initiated changes to the Employment Relations Act, it is possible to form a union with as
few as 15 workers. It is a new union that the watersiders are fighting. Proof that it's a demarcation dispute is on the
International Transport Workers Federation website. The site says "But one aspect of the legislation which allows just
15 people to form a union is causing problems for the ITF affiliated NZ Waterfront Workers Union. Carter Holt
Harvey...is using casual workers from International Stevedores to load logs...The NZWWU has responded by setting up
pickets...and confront the scabs wherever and whenever they attempt to displace true unionists." http://www.itf.org.uk/ap/ape62.htm
Les Dickson's firm is paying the unskilled labourers $150 a day. The unemployment benefit is $148 a week, so it is
hardly exploitation. During ERA select committee hearings, port companies predicted demarcation disputes, asking for the
ability to get injunctions and court orders. Minister of Labour, Margaret Wilson, claimed such disputes would not occur.
Recent parliamentary questions show she's still in denial.
Unions are presenting collective contract demands to companies that moved to individual agreements. Large construction
companies are being targeted. The Letter understands employers are prepared to accept collective agreements but not
employment flexibility restrictions. A modern construction site is a testament to co-operation. The head constructor
contracts with sub-contractors who in turn contract with labour contractors.
The original version of the Employment Relations Act tried to outlaw contracting by declaring all contractors employees.
Thanks to changes promoted by ACT this proposal was dropped. The unions are now attempting to gain by industrial action
what they failed to get in parliament. The union tactic has been to call repeated stop work meetings. They are illegal.
In the last month, on many different work places, there have been dozens of these mini strikes. As it would not be
economically viable to return to direct employment the Letter predicts these disputes will escalate. The test will come
when an employer asks for an order from the new Employment Authority that the stopwork meetings are illegal, that they
cease and that damages are payable. ACT's "Freedom to Contract" employment policy can be found at
The New Employment Authority
The first personal grievance cases are now being heard by the Authority. The coalition forced incumbent tribunal members
to reapply for their jobs and purged those considered pro-employer. In a number of cases employment lawyers are now
arguing that the Authority should set new, higher, "wrongful dismissal" compensation levels. By Christmas we should know
what the new levels will be. It's a safe bet they certainly won't be lower.
MMP Musical Chairs
As the Letter predicted the Greens caused Labour real anxiety over the Health bill. By voting with National they forced
changes to the Bill. Unfortunately the changes didn't improve the law. To the 21 new bureaucracies the bill created, the
Greens wanted to add even more bureaucracy. They believe spending more money on civil servants rather than expertise
will prevent another Gisborne controversy. The Greens' success in obtaining changes the Alliance were previously denied
is causing real tension. The Greens are emboldened and are making what can only be described as extreme 'socialist'
policy demands. One example is telecommunications. Labour ministers have already rejected the Fletcher Commission's
"heavy handed regulator". The Greens are demanding the Kiwi Share provisions be legislated. It would appear the Greens
are not aware of the world-wide discount in telco shares as investors realise radical new technology has made
telecommunications a risky business. ACT is strongly in favour of market competition over regulation. If the Greens
become too demanding, Minister Paul Swain should consider talking to ACT. ACT always votes for freedom, and
Labour/Alliance/ACT is a majority vote. Stranger things have happened under MMP.
The coalition planned to introduce 15 new pieces of legislation by Christmas. It appears no more than three will be
ready. The coalition spin will be that it's trying to be business friendly. The real reason is paralysis. Helen Clark's
willingness to interfere and override Ministers has undermined their authority, and their confidence. Interest groups
know they can appeal over Ministers' decisions and they do. The separate internal factions, women, Maori, trade unions
all demand separate consultation. The government must then negotiate with the Alliance, and then (if they remember), the
Greens. Every concession requires the whole process to be repeated. You reap what you sow.
Helping Through The Tough Times
ACT MP Muriel Newman's Family Court (Openness of Proceedings) Bill will be debated in parliament this week. During
custody battles, couples often use the secrecy of the Family Court to make wild accusations of child abuse etc. Open
Court access results in fewer spurious allegations as family and friends will know them to be false.
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