The “No” Prime Minister

A favourite meme of disingenuous rightwinger commenters is that no one likes the Left/the Opposition because we’re so negative. “You just say ‘no’ all the time, why not stand for something positive?” they say, being very concerned about our political fortunes.

Yet less than a year into his third term as PM, it’s John Key who seems to be saying “no” a lot.

No, you can’t have 26 weeks paid parental leave – it’ll cost too much, and no, we don’t want to look at your costings.

No, you can’t give all workers the right to elect health and safety representatives.

No, you can’t have the flag you want, you have to have the flag I want.

No, we can’t take more refugees, the system is too stretched already – and no, we can’t increase funding for that system either.

amy winehouse no no no

Time and again the government will make the bare minimum gesture possible. 18 weeks’ paid parental leave – all we can afford, really. All workers in large workplaces or small workplaces in “high risk industries” will get H&S reps – just don’t expect him to have a coherent idea of what those industries are. On the flag, we’re meant to accept that Key’s hands are tied, because they’d have to change the law to introduce a new option – except that’s not true, and anyway, isn’t changing the law kind of his job?

And on refugees, it’s not even a thousand. It’s 150 from our current quota, plus 100 this year, and maybe 500 jars of jam tomorrow over the next two financial years.

John Key couldn’t even bring himself to a one-off doubling of our quota, because God forbid it look like he’s listening to a suggestion made by the Opposition.

When our Prime Minister was thunderously declaring that the Opposition needed to “get some guts” and support a military deployment to Iraq, he nicked a line from his 2011 campaign song – “it’s time to stand up and be counted.” His charade of a consultation process for selecting a new flag kept asking New Zealanders what we “stand for”.

Right now, it doesn’t feel like John Key stands for anything – except saying “no”.

Peter Talley on health and safety law: unions are evil, workers’ lives cheap

Well, this is downright scary.

Whenever unionists talk about the bad employers who put profit over people’s lives, the right are quick to wave it away as fear-mongering, blowing a few small examples out of proportion.

Well, here are the words of a man with a $300 million business, employing 5,000 “full time equivalent” staff, who just got a knighthood for his “services to business”.

The Bill allows any single worker … to request a Health & Safety representative be appointed. Companies will have no right to oppose the creation of that representative irrespective of their political or Union history, their external relationships … or their ability to perform that role.

Fact: strong worker participation including worker-elected health and safety reps is the best way to improve health and safety. The fact that Peter Talley lists “competence” as the last problematic factor tells you everything about where his priorities lie.

In essence, companies can be asked to create and fund Health & Safety representatives and committees, the effective birthplace of industrial Unions, with no control over their activities…

It’s almost like workers have historically been forced to organise to make sure they don’t die on the job. God, what a sense of entitlement these peasants have!

Employers are rightly concerned that Sections 66 to 68 have been promulgated by the Union movement as a way to hand control of work groups to unions and employees … the Bill does not make it clear either that any worker group will contain a majority of employer representatives …

That’s probably because – and this may shock you – when employers have ultimate control over health and safety, and get to cherry-pick the people who are empowered to enforce health and safety, health and safety outcomes are worse.

Unscrupulous Unions could also use Sections 66 to 68 to intentionally damage or destroy a business …

cersei eyeroll

Yep, that’s what unions do. Unions are so evil that they just want to destroy all the businesses everywhere so no one has jobs. Even if you believe the right’s age-old lie that “unions are a business”, what “business” would destroy its own “customer” base that way, by destroying people’s basic ability to spend their money on its “product”?

Sorry, I forgot I was talking to a Talley.

[On the powers of H&S representatives to inspect any part of a workplace in the event of an accident or serious risk to a person’s health and safety]

It is inconceivable to even imagine that legislation would propose to ‘open’ these commercially sensitive production sites to the ‘spying eyes’ of Union appointed personnel or anyone else other than government employees.

Because even when an accident has already occurred, the divine right of Peter Talley to make money must not be infringed.

… if large fines and imprisonment are to be imposed on employed then they should be entitled to act … to protect themselves. … [T]here needs to be a statutory right to dismiss employees for breaching safety rules and procedures with no right to take a grievance arising from their dismissal.

How convenient that Peter Talley – the man who’s trying to force workers to sign contracts which mean they could be dismissed for speaking critically of his draconian master-servant complex – wants more power to summarily fire people.

The whole thing is a farce, born from the brain of a man who honestly believes simultaneously that “unions are failing because they don’t offer anything” and “unions are so powerful I must be protected from their evil demands for better health and safety.”

And it’s all rubbish. Every single point raised contradicts both the Pike River Royal Commission report and the government’s own Health and Safety Taskforce, with no greater evidence that “Peter Talley doesn’t like it.”

I’m sorry that it’s inconvenient for Peter Talley to not have workers die on the job, but the facts are the facts. Strong worker participation leads to better health and safety.

The super-ironic thing? I was just talking about this exact same attitude in my post on costly government. Over the long term, having good relationships with your workers and their unions, having strong, genuine health and safety systems, and respecting workers’ voices and opinions about their work leads to decreased turnover and increased productivity.

Peter Talley would probably make even more obscene amounts of money by pulling his head in and realising that workers are human beings who just want to be treated with a bit of respect. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

And the real tragedy, after all that comedy? Thanks to people like Peter Talley, the health and safety legislation, born out of the deaths of 29 men at Pike River, will likely be watered down so John Key can keep his caucus happy. And more workers will be injured, or at worst, killed on the job as a result.

Three more years

This election result is not the end of the world for me.

I don’t have kids. I don’t have to worry about whether their school will be closed, or privatised, whether they have shoes to wear or a lunch to take to school every morning. I don’t have to find the money for “voluntary donations” which are needed to cover the basic costs of their education, or desperately search for flexible work which fits around daycare, if I can even find daycare.

I don’t have any chronic illnesses. I don’t have to worry about fighting tooth and nail to access the support I need just to manage my condition. I don’t have to worry about being bullied into “seeking work” when it’s impossible for me, and the jobs aren’t there. I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to pay for all the prescriptions I need.

I have a well-paid job with a great employer. I don’t have to worry about being fired on a 90 day trial, paid less than a living wage, or having to argue just for the right to a rest break in the middle of my shift.

I don’t have trouble paying the bills. I don’t have to worry about the price of power now that our power companies are increasingly privatised and being run for profit over service.

I don’t work in a high-risk job. I don’t have to worry about dealing with ACC over workplace injuries while my negligent boss gets to fly away to his next role without any consequences.

I’m a homeowner. I don’t have to worry about living in a damp, drafty house which makes me sick, or trying to put together enough to buy my first home when the mortgage is going to take 50% of my take-home pay.

I’ve never been a victim of sexual or domestic violence. I don’t have to worry about whether the local refuge is going to be able to keep its doors open, or

I don’t live in Christchurch. I don’t have to worry about soaring rents, living in a tent in someone’s back yard, or waiting four years just to get a basic insurance claim settled.

I’m not a public servant, or a striking worker. I don’t have to worry about my name and personal information appearing online and in the media when a Cabinet Minister decides they don’t like what I have to say.

So I may not suffer much under three more years of National in government. Because I am incredibly lucky. To quote people who aren’t as lucky as me:

https://twitter.com/writehandedgirl/status/513283402464624640

The campaign for 2017 begins now, because we have to do better for everyone.