INDEPENDENT NEWS

Soldiers to Help Other Bosses?

Published: Wed 5 Sep 2001 12:03 AM
The stinking hypocrisy of Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's Employment Relations Act is shown by the military move into the country's prisons says ACT's Corrections spokesman Stephen Franks.
"The Employment Relations Act bans private sector employers from using strike breakers. A dairy farmer can't even pay a spouse or children to keep things going in place of a striking worker. The trustees of a school which used relievers in place of striking teachers to help kids desperate about upcoming exams, would be prosecuted with all the rigour of the law. A bus company which borrowed another company's off duty drivers to collect working people stranded by a commuter bus strike, would find itself before Ms Wilson's union-serving legal system.
"Yet this government, which cares nothing about the liberties of the corner dairy owner to protect their livelihood and investment, has wheeled in the military to avoid negotiating with its own prison staff.
"'Good faith bargaining' was Ms Wilson's answer to the aghast employers when her mad bill provisions were forced through. Why hasn't good faith bargaining worked with prison officers? Sure they are furious. They have had to work under a Minister who has only recently backed away from a promise not to build more prisons, when all reports were telling him of gross overcrowding looming.
"But the particular circumstances of the prison dispute should not obscure the underlying hypocrisy. The government must repeal section 97of the Employment Relations Act. No employer, or customer, of a strike bound business should have to tolerate all the coercive powers of the state lined up against them when they exercise their human right to attempt to protect themselves and their livelihoods.
"The Rankin case showed the true character of the Labour cabinet in its attitude to employees. The government ignored its own ban in section 66 of the ERA on relying on fixed term contracts. It enforced its fixed term contract against Ms Rankin while prohibiting all other employers from doing the same. In the long term they will not get away with this 'good faith' hypocrisy," Stephen Franks said.
Ends

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