It's hard to see how the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, could seriously expect anyone to believe her when she said in Parliament today that 'the fire at will' bill (The Employment Relations Amendment Bill) does not take away any (further) worker's rights.
Provisions under present industrial legislation allow employers to take on a new workers for a probationary period. What National's proposed new law does is strip workers of any protection and the right to take grievance procedures against a boss for unjustified dismissal and so forth.
As the No Right Turn blog notes:
'The core of the bill is new sections 67A and B, which allow small employers ("by agreement" - meaning by economic coercion) to impose a trial period of up to 90 days on new staff, during which they will have no right to bring legal proceedings if dismissed. While existing rights to bring proceedings for racial discrimination and sexual harassment are purportedly preserved, the effect of new s67 B (2) will be to completely undermine them in practice. So, this is a racist's and sexist's charter.'
Wilkinson compounded her stupidity when she said that the legislation didn't apply to all workers, just those working for organisations with less than twenty workers. Well, this is 97 percent of New Zealand's workforce. Doh!
And what Wilkinson didn't say is that a footnote in the legislation says that the law could be extended to all workers at a future date. I'll lay odds that it will be.
Of course with the New Zealand economy spinning rapidly down into a recession that will be far deeper and serious than many people are expecting (certainly not the Reserve Bank governor), business expects John Key to tilt the balance well and truly in their favour.
There will be a price to be paid for the capitalist slump but it'll be paid, if we allow it, by ordinary workers through bills like this one.
My worry is that there will a concerted attempt to direct political opposition into supporting Labour and the Greens - and the Labour-aligned trade union bureaucracy.
Attempts to push Phil Goff as a champion of the working class just won't wash.
Recent history tells us that a fair number of 'wolves in sheep clothing' can be found within the ranks of Labour and its political allies...