FIRST Union has today responded to the coalition agreements between the new Government of the National Party, ACT and New Zealand First; describing the proposed policy programmes as regressive and the next Government as potentially the most self-interested right-wing government in recent history.
“The coalition agreements between National, ACT and New Zealand First represent the most far right-wing policy programme in Aotearoa’s recent history,” said Dennis Maga, FIRST Union General Secretary.
“This is already a Government captured by extreme interests, dominated by the expectations of lobbyists and big businesses, and many of the questionable ‘investors’ in the parties’ election war chests are clearly expecting their money’s worth in beneficial legislation.”
“However, it is likely going to be a one-term Government plagued by chaos and several competing conceptions of how best to punish those worst-off in society.”
Workplace Relations and Safety
Mr Maga said that proposals to weaken health and safety legislation, limit workers’ access to workplace justice through Personal Grievance claims, and repeal Fair Pay Agreements, would have the effect of driving wages down, increasing unemployment and underemployment, increasing deaths and injuries in the workplace, and widening the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else in New Zealand.
“Putting an extreme libertarian ACT Minister in charge of workplace relations and safety is like putting a vampire in charge of the country’s emergency blood supply,” said Mr Maga.
“Proposed industrial policies like the return of 90-day trial laws were designed by big business and serve no one but overseas shareholders.”
“There are no new ideas here; just a ‘greatest hits’ of bad policies from the 80s and 90s that didn’t work then and won’t work now.”
“Fair Pay Agreements for a quarter of a million New Zealand workers are already under negotiation and gathering pace – our work here does not stop and we anticipate significant unforeseen challenges to the Government’s plan to get this done by Christmas.”
The new Government’s desperation to shut down contracting law reform revealed a deep fear of worker power and a desire to maintain an exploitative status quo used by multinationals like Uber, in which permanent employees are misclassified as contractors, said Anita Rosentreter, FIRST Union Strategic Project Coordinator.
“Companies like Uber have preyed on weak lawmaking and sought every chance to game the employment system in Aotearoa – this Government is backing them and encouraging others to do the same,” said Ms Rosentreter.
“Uber’s appeal of last year’s Employment Court verdict – that four drivers were actually acting as permanent employees of the company, not contractors – is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal in March next year, and the judiciary’s is the only analysis that really matters when it comes to contracting.”
“Governments around the world have recognised the assault on sovereignty of employment practices like Uber’s, and are taking action to close loopholes – this coalition will effectively invite those employers into Cabinet.”
Economy, housing, health
New FIRST Union President Bill Bradford said the coalition’s proposed tax cuts, funded by increasing access to cigarettes, clawing back welfare investment and cutting the public service, revealed the coalition’s total lack of imagination and unpreparedness for dealing with the country’s many imminent challenges.
“Wage growth will slow with no relief in sight for low-income New Zealanders, but beneficiary bashing is back on the menu and decades of cross-party progress on smoking cessation will go straight into the ashtray,” said Mr Bradford.
“The attack on working people continues in housing, where renters are being demonised and disenfranchised once again for the betterment of the property agencies and mega-landlords who funded right-wing campaigns and are expecting their crumbs from the table.”
“Make no mistake – proposed cuts to the so-called ‘back offices’ of the public service will result in a blow-out bill for expensive contractors and consultants who stand to make hay while the sun shines.”
“It’s timely to remember the consistent method used in far-right projects of deregulation: defund services until people are angry about their quality, and then offer privatisation as a solution.”
Crown-Māori relations, Te Tiriti
FIRST Union Kaiwhakahaere, Syd Keepa, said attempts to regress or derail progress in Crown-Māori relations would be catastrophic for the country.
“Our union’s Rūnanga, like all tangata whenua, know how this story goes already and we will not tolerate slightly more polite racists like David Seymour trying to take us back fifty years in a single term of Government,” said Mr Keepa.
“The desire to destroy Te Reo Māori is an attempt to break our solidarity and erode years of work repairing fractured relationships around a language that unites us and speaks to our past struggles as well as our future prosperity.”
“Any attempt to pursue a referendum on Te Tiriti, in any capacity, will be met by a very energetic resistance.”
Climate change and the environment
Proposals to repeal the ban on new oil and gas exploration indicate that the new Government doesn’t take climate science seriously or the country’s part in a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Mr Maga.
“Positive opportunities for investment in our low-carbon future and mitigation and adaptation to climate change will be forgotten under this programme, and the next Government intend to place their heads firmly in the sand for their three years,” said Mr Maga.
“The costs of climate change are borne by the worst-off in society, and the consequences of our inaction will be felt in human health, crisis migration, fewer future-proof job opportunities and less regional resilience and preparedness for the climate challenges of the future.”
Areas for cooperation
- Dennis Maga said that FIRST Union intended to seek cooperative action with Government on key areas of the proposed coalition agreements that could benefit working people, including:
- Regular increases to the minimum wage
- Reform of accreditation for migrant worker employers
- A Select Committee inquiry into banking competition
- Increasing Government funding for St John’s ambulance service
- Investigating the reopening of Marsden Point
- Regulation of the existing supermarket duopoly