Easter trading

Easter Sunday is one of the three-and-a-half days a year when (most) shops have to be closed. That could be changing. From Denise Roche of the Greens:

The new rules would supposedly protect people’s rights to say no to shifts on Easter Sunday or to apply for annual leave for that day. But that just shows how out of touch National is with the real situation for many working people.

Imagine you’re a young person going for your first or second job in retail, and in the job interview the boss asks you how you’d feel about working on Easter Sunday. You’re hardly going to say no, because you want the job.

Or maybe you’re a single parent, juggling childcare and work. The person who does the rostering for the shop where you work is already annoyed at you because your commitment to your kids means sometimes you need to change the roster. Are you going to risk annoying your boss even more by asking not to work on Easter Sunday?

Unfortunately, I think, it seems to be a line some in Labour will accept:

Labour leader Andrew Little has expressed favour in allowing shops to trade on the weekend, but he had a few concerns.

“I wouldn’t object to a law that allowed trading on Easter Sunday, providing the right of the worker to genuinely opt-out,” he said.

Allowing employers leeway with words like “reasonable” and “genuine opt-out” probably works fine in some situations. It’s like the Danish “flexicurity” model which is being bandied about in the Future of Work conversations that are happening at the moment. Flexicurity gives employers huge leeway – in a context of massive collective strength for workers. Chris Trotter already joined the dots on this one:

New Zealand and Denmark have many similarities, but in 2016 they also feature a number of vital differences. In relation to flexicurity, the most important of these is the respective level of union density.

As the official Danish website puts it: “The development of the labour market owes much to the Danish collective bargaining model, which has ensured extensive worker protection while taking changing production and market conditions into account. The organisation rate for workers in Denmark is approx. 75%.”

The organisation rate for New Zealand workers in 2014 was approx. 19%.

In fairness, Little did say:

“The bottom line is you’ve got to protect the right of workers to genuinely opt-out and not be subject to stigma and pressure.”

But this is a bit of a paradox. The employer/employee relationship is inherently unbalanced. One side starts off with all the power and money. The power to hire in the first place. The power to take the job away. The money to hire the best lawyers and drag out court proceedings over disputes and weather a long lockout. There will always be stigma and pressure on a worker to accept the deal they’re offered.

The power imbalance is only mitigated – not cured – when the people who do the work can stand together in solidarity, and when a basic set of good employment standards are entrenched in the law and enforced adequately.

This is labour relations 101. Look where the power lies. Look at the context. Right now, the context is that workers in New Zealand aren’t even guaranteed a minimum set of rest breaks during their shift. Operations like Talley’s AFFCO are literally threatening disciplinary action to make people work on public holidays.

In this environment, with that level of power imbalance, the idea of giving employers more and more of the power as long as they promise to be “reasonable” is so Pollyanna-ish that Pollyanna would look at it and think “damn, that’s a little optimistic”.

It would be so great to live in a world where workers and employers can have truly healthy relationships. Where people can have the flexibility to take or work on holiday weekends, where pay is fair and jobs are secure. We don’t live in that world. We live in the world where people like Peter Talley get knighthoods.

So let’s not dismantle the very last scraps of workers’ rights just yet.

~

Labour is allowing a conscience vote on the issue. It might be interesting to see where the lines are drawn.

My top 5 politicians of the year

Duncan Garner announced his pick for the top 5 politicians of the year yesterday, and one thing really stood out.

family guy no girls allowed

That’s right, all of them, without exception, are from the North Island. I mean, you can quibble that Bill English is technically a Southland boy, he lives in Karori, people.

sebastian roche and

Oh. And they’re all men.

Duncan had a pretty straight-up explanation for that.

And he’s right. We shouldn’t let box-ticking or tokenism or silly quotas get between us and the stone cold political assessments. So here, based entirely on objective factors like talent, media profile, principled action and political impact, and certainly not biased by any inherent preferment or societal narratives of what success looks like, are my top 5 politicians of the year.

5. Metiria Turei

You may not see it, but you have to assume she’s had her work cut out for her getting the Greens from Male Co-leader A to Male Co-leader B this year. And where other parties can’t so much as blink without cries of internal disunity and caucus ructions, the Greens have just got on and got the job done.

4. Jacinda Ardern

A strangely polarising figure in the Labour Party, half see her as the Second Coming and half despise her, not despite but because she has tremendous public profile in so-called “soft” media. Yet “soft” media is one of the keys (pardon the pun) to the PM’s success – as much as we pols nerds may rail against the perfidy of accepting interview requests from Radio Sport and ignoring Morning Report’s calls, it works. Unfortunately most NZers don’t get their news from Morning Report.

It sounds cynical if you assume that “soft” media is the be-all and end-all of politics these days. But Labour can be a both/and party, and that means doing Checkpoint and 7 Days.

3. Annette King

Just so you’ll forgive me for #4, Labour’s deputy leader has spent all year embarrassing Jonathan Coleman with inconvenient facts about his failure to properly resource our health system. If you took a drink every time he whined “no you’re wrong and Labour was worse” you’d have spent most of 2015 very happily inebriated.

2. Judith Collins

Boo, hiss, et cetera. But even though I totally called this, pretty much the day she resigned in utter disgrace, it’s impressive how delicately, yet determinedly, she’s rebuilding her profile and her credibility. We’re talking about a Minister of the Crown who threw senior public servants under the bus when members of her party were caught rorting the taxpayer, who brazenly coordinated attack bloggers and gossip mavens to do her bidding, and who was plagued with story after sordid story of the shady use of ministerial trips to help her husband’s business … and now she’s back with a weekly newspaper column and regularly going head-to-head with the deputy leader of the Labour Party on the telly.

Next stop: an inevitable return to Cabinet, and after that, a thunderous (but probably/hopefully unsuccessful) charge at the National leadership.

1. Mojo Mathers, Jan Logie, Clare Curran, Poto Williams, Denise Roche, Louisa Wall, Nanaia Mahuta, Catherine Delahunty, Marama Davidson, Jenny Salesa, Eugenie Sage, and Julie-Anne Genter

For making the voices of survivors of sexual violence heard in our House of Parliament and staging a beautiful collective act of resistance when they were shut down, making international headlines in the process. Doing the right thing and winning the media battle at the same time: that’s good politics.