Thousands rally against employment law changes

  • 28/08/2013

Around 3000 workers gathered this afternoon at a protest rally in south Auckland opposing the Government's proposed latest employment law changes.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill carries a raft of changes to the Employment Relations Act, which the Government says are needed to make workplaces more flexible.

However, thousands of workers and union members disagree, saying it does not protect employees.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly spoke at the rally and said there are "slimy" people in Government who will push the bill through.

"It is wrong to do this to the working people of this country," Ms Kelly said.

She urged workers and unions to vote National out of power because "they do not care about" employees.

"The next goal is to change this government to a government that does care about them," she says.

Sina Fameita, a cleaner at Auckland's domestic airport, told the rally the last pay rise she received was 10 cents, bringing her hourly rate to $14.10.

Another speaker said cleaners can't afford for their children to go to the movies and there is "never enough milk in the fridge".

New Zealand's minimum wage is $13.75 per hour. The EPMU says the New Zealand living wage is $18.40 per hour, meaning it is impossible to live on anything less.

EPMU national secretary Bill Newson also spoke at the rally.

"You can't create a high value economy by cutting pay," he said.

The three contenders for the Labour Party's leadership were invited to attend the rally, but an apology was delivered for Grant Roberston and David Cunliffe who said they didn't want to draw media attention away from the cause. Shane Jones attended the rally, but did not speak.

Ms Kelly told Firstline this morning she believes Prime Minister John Key's goal is to drive wages down.

"Workers are feeling that – they're feeling their wages decline, they're feeling their rights being stripped away. This part of the Prime Minister's effort to justify what is a wholesale attack on now on the working people of this country," she says.

Ms Kelly also says the bill will strip workers of their much-needed breaks.

"Workers are turning up to show their disgust at what is a raft of changes going through the Parliament – to move the tea break, to lose the tea break and the lunch break, to remove security of employment and – the Cabinet papers say – to allow employers to drive wages down."

The Government says the result will be a win-win for employers and employees.

But, Ms Kelly says the bill removes employment security and will take much-needed breaks away from workers.

Union workers have made more than 12,000 submissions to the select committee so far.

Another protest rally will be held in Christchurch tomorrow.

The EPMU says the bill will allow employers to:

  • Refuse to negotiate a collective agreement with their employees
  • Pay new workers less than the rate in the collective agreement
  • Opt out of industry agreements in order to undercut their competitors on wages
  • Deny workers meal and rest breaks
  • Reduce the wages and conditions of vulnerable workers such as cleaners when taking over a new contract
  • Dock the pay of workers taking partial strike action
  • Impose more restrictions on the right to strike
  • Refuse to provide employees the information they need to challenge an unfair redundancy or dismissal.

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source: newshub archive