Tuesday, 1 January 2008
At the heart of working life are the rights and laws that set down the rules of what we can and cannot do at work, what the boss can and cannot do, and what our minimum entitlements are. So, who the lawmakers (the politicians) are and what they promise is very important. We need to be able to check what the various alternatives are against our own union standards, and if necessary use our collective power to improve the lives of working Kiwis and their families. We reckon this basic checklist sets out reasonable expectations for fair work rights and the basis for good business, good management and decent work. 1. Wages Policy It used to be that no self-respecting political party would go into an election without telling people how they were going to lift wages. Every political party must spell out a comprehensive Wages Policy and say how we are going to deal with the rapid increase in the cost of living today and how we are going to close the wage gap with Australia. We believe a fair wages system is about how we get to agree on and set wages, how we make sure wages don’t lose value and how we make sure wages increase as skills, experience and learning increase. We need to do this at the workplace level, at the industry level and maybe at the national level, too. We need to make sure workers have an effective voice on wages and that no worker is left behind. A good wages policy will include: • The right to organise as a union and to bargain collectively for decent pay and conditions, including at an industry level. • The right of workers to access relevant and accurate information about the business so that we are informed when we bargain. • Enforceable rules for bargaining which mean management can’t just refuse to negotiate or can’t bypass the union. • Annual and real increases in the minimum wage. • Recognition of the importance of workers having a voice in developing workplace productivity. • Minimum rates of overtime pay to recognise the effect of long hours on the lives of workers and their families. • The right of workers employed through labour hire agencies who work alongside workers under a collective agreement to be paid the same rates for the same work. • An active labour market policy with a goal of full employment. 2. A meaningful right to be in a union Belonging to a union is about wanting a more effective voice at work and on things that affect work, but the right to belong to a union is meaningless if there is no effective protection against discrimination and victimisation, and from employers who obstruct the union, deny delegates the time for training and the ability to do their work and who undermine the union through freeloader pass-ons. Meaningful policies to protect union rights include: • The right to choose to be in a union independent of the employer and not be discriminated against by management. • An obligation on the employer to recognise and respect union delegates, and allow them adequate time to train and to do their tasks as delegates around the workplace. • The right of union members to see their chosen representatives onsite. • An obligation on the employer to deal with the union on more than just collective bargaining. The union voice must be heard on all issues that directly affect union members and other workers. • An obligation on the employer not to undermine the union by being obstructive, by by-passing the union or passing-on union-negotiated benefits to non-union workers. 3. Right to be treated fairly and with dignity Whether we work full-time or part-time or even in several jobs at once, our job is our financial livelihood. Take away our job and you take away the means to feed ourselves and our family, and pay our bills. Of course, our job is more than just our financial security. We have mates at work and we socialise around it. We should never have our job taken from us without good cause and fair treatment. We should never be treated unfairly or without dignity, whether by the boss or by co-workers. Policies that uphold fair treatment and dignity at work include: • Protection against arbitrary and unfair dismissal and other unfair treatment. • Protection against discrimination and victimisation. • The right to union representation when we need it and without obstruction from the boss. • Respect from management and a culture of mutual respect throughout the workplace. • Effective legal processes, with rights of appeal, so our rights can be enforced without undue delay. 4. Right to a safe and healthy workplace There is no greater tragedy than having Mum or Dad or any other family member never return home from their work day or their shift because of a workplace accident caused by unsafe systems, machinery or practices. Decent health and safety rights include: • Strong health and safety laws setting high standards and providing real protection for workers. • Effective and well-resourced health and safety education and enforcement. • A right for workers to have a real say in health and safety at work, including elected health and safety delegates. • The right to refuse to do unsafe work without punishment or discrimination. • A fair and efficient system of accident compensation for injury at work regardless of who you work for. • Proper rehabilitation before return to work. 5. Decent minimum entitlements A lot of workers make the choice to stick together at work by joining the union so they have a more powerful voice when dealing with the employer. But there are a lot of workers who don’t get that chance and whose voice is not strong. There needs to be minimum standards for basic conditions so the less powerful at work aren’t taken advantage of. Policies covering minimum standards need to include: • Decent holidays, including at least four weeks annual leave. • Decent minimum rates of pay on holidays, including a minimum of time and a half on public holidays. • Minimum redundancy protections. • Maximum hours of work. • Decent sick, domestic and bereavement leave, including the right to Relevant Daily Pay. • Decent paid parental leave to give new parents and their babies a proper start. 6. Commitment to ongoing training and learning As technology changes rapidly our work and our jobs change. If we are serious about improving businesses, lifting living standards and paying better wages there needs to be a proper commitment to workplace learning. Workers need to have regular and on-going opportunities to learn new skills. Decent policies on learning and up-skilling include: • Larger employers committing to take on certain numbers of apprentices or trainees. • Government and employers investing in on-going learning around work. • Programmes that make access to learning easier, like learning reps.