The people win against Talleys

Congratulations to the members of the Meat Workers Union who have won in court against New Zealand’s most douchebaggy of employers, Talley’s.

The Court unanimously decided that the lockout of workers across the North Island earlier this year was illegal, and Talley’s AFFCO had breached Section 32 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 by not acting in good faith while negotiations were going on.

MWU National Secretary Graham Cook said the decision was fantastic for Talley’s AFFCO workers and their families.

“Talley’s have tried just about everything to stop these workers from being able to bargain for a fair deal. They’ve forced some workers onto individual agreements, they’ve tried to undermine the union behind closed doors.

“But today Talley’s have lost.

Talley’s are an absolute blight on New Zealand industry. They’re basically a caricature of a bad employer. They’ve knowingly and wilfully paid women less to do the same work as men. They literally believe that making money is more important than keeping the people who work for them safe on the job. They have a terrible health and safety record and a kneejerk hatred of unions.

They’re the kind of employer that our government stands up for, time and time again. And the (grimly) hilarious thing is how counter-productive their attitude is. As new CTU president Richard Wagstaff says:

Good employers know that treating employees fairly and respectfully is the way to build a happy productive workplace.

Paying the people who work for you enough to feed their kids, keeping people safe and healthy, treating people with basic respect and a bit of dignity – shockingly, it’s good for business. Treating people like people and not robots – terrifyingly, it makes them happier and healthier, it makes their families happier and healthier, it benefits our entire society, including the profit-making business-owning parts.

The radical idea, which the Talley family and the Key government simply can’t get their heads around, is that short-term thinking doesn’t return long-term benefits. Screwing over workers now to make profit now doesn’t support the society which sustains your business.

This is what gobsmacks me about the right in New Zealand: they’re not actually very good at doing capitalism. But as long as they get their knighthoods and can retire to Hawaii, I don’t think they really care.

You can support the meat workers’ campaign at the Jobs That Count website.

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.

Protect Your Signature!

There’s always something comical about American corporations’ union-busting videos. They wouldn’t be out of place in between news clips on Starship Troopers. And if you’re looking for a conspiracy theory, there’s something eerily similar about all of them – with cries to “Protect your signature!” and dire warnings about the death of “our friendly open-door policy.”

The latest to come out is this offering from Walmart, your friendly, local, mom-and-pop US$200 billion business.

 

It would truly be terrible if vile union activism hurt Walmart. They’re the kind of community-minded business which closes stores with little or no notice citing “plumbing problems” – including stores which just happen to have high levels of union activity – and then forces its workers to re-apply for their old jobs rather than reinstating them.

Still, the video raises some good points. Why would unions target stores like Walmart, with its broad history of exploiting workers, aggressively responding to workers trying to form unions, and destroying local business? It just doesn’t make sense. Must be because unions are a big business that wants to steal all your money. Unlike Walmart.

The real question is, who falls for this rubbish? Who honestly goes “yep, the manager who slashed my hours after I took a sick day sure has my best interests at heart, unlike those terrible union organisers who want to help me secure better pay and conditions!”

But I don’t think that’s the point. The videos are just too friendly. Friendly the way a guy coming into your home and saying, “Nice place. Would be a pity if something should happen to it” is friendly.

Tea breaks are creeping communism

A classic National Party campaign poster did the rounds on Twitter following Farrar’s latest round of “Labour is now the extreme left” scaremongering.

1951 national poster communism

What’s funny is how little the right’s tactics have changed in 60 years. Even today, you get employers telling their workers that they’re very concerned that the unions they belong to are greedy leviathans run from shadowy smoke-filled rooms by men with Stalinist moustaches. The rhetoric is still about scary unions forcing innocent businesses to close their doors as the hardworking General Manager Corporate Affairs weeps into his tie.

The fairly simple logic – that it doesn’t really benefit unions if their members go out of work – is usually lost on people like Farrar. Many unions have in fact been key parts of helping businesses to lift productivity and innovate and create even more jobs.

Of course workers, and the unions who represent them, get a little stroppy when employers do things like try to take away guaranteed tea breaks and leak workers’ personal information to hate-bloggers like Cameron Slater, but that’s hardly socialism gone mad. That’s recognising basic concepts like fairness, safety, and integrity.

And those things are pretty scary, if you think the only important thing in the world is short-term profit.