Wednesday, August 23, 2006



Victory on probationary employment

The Maori Party have decided to oppose Wayne Mapp's Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill when it comes back before the House next month, meaning that the bill will now fail. This is great news. The bill would have acted as a charter for bad employers to abuse and exploit their workers, effectively reducing them to peonage. I am very glad that it will fail, and very glad that the Maori Party has decided to help bury it.

11 comments:

Whereas I think cutting it back from a 90 day to a 30 day trial would have been much better than abandoning the bill.

Because both sides of the debate had a point about this.

As an employer it is really hard to tell how people will work out from a cv and interview. So we tend to not take risks by employing people who might or might not be a problem. Which means that long-term unemployed, people coming out of prison, people coming back from parenting, etc, can find it hard to break into the workforce - and that shifting from one type of job to another is harder too.

OTOH, giving employers too much power is a problem, because a few ratbags will abuse it.


I'm disappointed that I see lots of people trumpeting one side of this debate or another: very few seem to be worrying about balancing these two sets of concerns.

Posted by Icehawk : 8/24/2006 11:36:00 AM

Which means that long-term unemployed, people coming out of prison, people coming back from parenting, etc, can find it hard to break into the workforce - and that shifting from one type of job to another is harder too.

How many people are we talking about here? I don't have a figure for the number of people convicted or released in any one year (the "churn"), but we have 8,600 people in prison ATM. As for long-term unemployed, according to the march HLFS, there were 8,700 people who had been out of work for longer than six months, and 1,800 of them had been out of work for longer than two years. By contrast, there are over 2 million people in the workforce. Basing policy around such a small group when it will have a significant negative effect on everyone else doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea.

I should also add that probationary employment periods significantly increase the risks of changing jobs. The effect is to limit labour market mobility, and (because a common source of wage rises is shifting jobs) produce downward pressure on wages. It's no wonder the BRT wee in favour of it...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/24/2006 01:09:00 PM

Basing policy around such a small group when it will have a significant negative effect on everyone else doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea.
This is the type of basesless statement that the Unions have used to push their agenda on this. How would I (as part of the other 2mil) be seriously disadvantaged by this? By contrast I can think of at least 3 dream jobs that I have historically applied for that I probably would have been able to secure if this legislation or its equivalent was in place.

The business round table tends to be in favour of most things that produce a reduction in inflationary influences. It always surprises me that the colloquial employee is less so.

Also the risk is primarily increased for incompetent people and CV fraudsters. I'm not sure anyone has ever explained why these should be protected at the cost of everyone else?

The effect on labour market mobility is indeterminate - there may be a decrease of mobility by those with high levels of risk intolerance, who tend to be highly immobile anyway, balanced by the increase in available positions and market demand. Hence the effect on wages /salary is also indeterminate. More to the point the effect can be "inflationary" as employers will be more able to pay an employees initial demands under the recognition that if they don't perform as promised they actually have an out.

Posted by iiq374 : 8/24/2006 01:28:00 PM

How would I (as part of the other 2mil) be seriously disadvantaged by this?

Well, you'd be at the complete mercy of your employer for the first 90 days, to the extent that you could not even apply for the recovery of wages if they failed to pay you (you could use the ordinary courts, but that costs money and requires lawyers - a significant barrier to justice). You might be happy with this level of insecurity - but judging by the large protests against the bill, compared with the complete absence of protests in favour, it seems that the majority of New Zealand workers aren't.

The requirement that employers actually have a good reason to fire someone and follow a fair process in doing so is not particularly onerous, and protects the rights of the many against the abuses of the few. It also helps ensure a society where we can enjoy a basic level of security, and plan our lives without the fear that we could lose everything on someone's arbitrary whim. It lets us actually live, rather than having to crawl. And that I think is quite valuable.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/24/2006 02:07:00 PM

Good points I/S.

If anyone's interested, the EPMU has chucked up some photos from the event at http://flickr.com/photos/epmu/.

Posted by Susan Deare : 8/24/2006 03:52:00 PM

idiot/savant - the bill does not change the workers rights to pay nor the legal recourse they have in those matters. It is this type of scaremongering that has led to the support of the protests you raise.

If my "new" employer was of the type to be of that persuasion (in terms of deliberatly firing after 90 days etc) then I wouldn't want to work for them anyway. This is also very different to the situation in Germany etc where that period is 18 months - in which case I would agree with the sentiments.

The requirement that employers actually have a good reason to fire someone and follow a fair process in doing so is not particularly onerous You really don't follow that many employment law cases do you? If I could agree with this statement then I could agree with the bill not being neccessary.

In fact if the employment court wasn't so stupid as to make enforcement of the *current* probation clauses in contracts all but unenforceable then there would be no need for this bill.

It also helps ensure a society where we can enjoy a basic level of security, and plan our lives without the fear that we could lose everything on someone's arbitrary whim. It lets us actually live, rather than having to crawl. And that I think is quite valuable.
These rights are also those that should be able to be enjoyed by the employer. In fact because they tend to be the real risk taker and wealth generator in these relationships I would still tend to say they should enjoy them more.
Even with this bill in place they would enjoy a mere fraction of the rights employees inherit.

Posted by iiq374 : 8/24/2006 04:09:00 PM

"I can think of at least 3 dream jobs that I have historically applied for that I probably would have been able to secure if this legislation or its equivalent was in place"
So who did end up getting those jobs instead of you? What makes you so sure that you would have been better than them? Given the time and inconvenience involved in recruitment, why would the employers have been so keen to risk having to go through the process again within 90 days?

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 8/24/2006 05:08:00 PM

In the last two the position ended up remaining unfilled.
One they are still advertising (3 months later), the other may be filled now but certainly wasn't within 6 months of the process I went through.

The former I got explicit feedback that they could not take the risk around the salary level that I require, and due to the nature of the organisation could not look at a contractor then employee relationship. (If they had better HR people they would know that an agreement along those lines would constitute an employment contract anyway...)

The latter I got explicit feedback that they did not quite feel comfortable with the lack of time in the specific industry.

The third role was a while ago and is a bit of a supposition in that I feel that they were not quite ready to take the risk on a recent Uni Grad even with diverse contracting experience.

Posted by iiq374 : 8/25/2006 07:21:00 AM

Commie Mutant Traitor - However you are completely correct in challenging the unqualified statement I originally made!

Also even if the ability to have an actual probationary period still did not quite swing those positions my way, it still would have made it more likely.

Posted by iiq374 : 8/25/2006 07:23:00 AM

Idiot,

" you'd be at the complete mercy of your employer for the first 90 days,"

Bollocks.


The bill would make probationary periods possible, if the new employee and employer agree to it and put it into the employment contract.

I'll say that again: this bill would make probationary periods POSSIBLE, but NOT MANDATORY.

I'd expect them to be the exception rather than the rule. Because most people wouldn't be willing to resign job A unless they had a solid promise of job B - not just some "probationary period".

"You might be happy with this level of insecurity... it seems that the majority of New Zealand workers aren't."

Then the majority shouldn't accept probationary periods in their employment contracts. What you want is for this option to be denied to the minority as well.

Could we please move you to _rational_ debate, Idiot, instead of knee-jerk defence of your position?

Posted by Icehawk : 8/25/2006 01:54:00 PM

But the clear POLITICAL point is that when it all comes down to it, Maori and National won't ever actually form a government arrangement: Maori "opening" to National just PR stunt - like the Green "opening" (which went all sour when Ian E-Street actually did it).

That means National + ACT must win majority in Parliament or we won't see a National-led government in '08.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/25/2006 07:51:00 PM