Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Greens industrial relations policy

While everyone else has been focusing on the circus, the Greens released their industrial relations policy today. And its good. Boosting and indexing the minimum wage, expanding paid parental leave, improving working conditions and holiday and leave entitlements, protecting casual and contract workers, and strengthening the ability of unions to negotiate the multi-employer collective agreements which have driven wage growth recently. I think they'll have problems with some of their plans for pay equity - its a bit more difficult to do that sort of thing in a devolved employment market - but their initial focus there seems to be around information, which is essential to making the market work properly anyway. They're also pushing for a shift back to standardised employment conditions in the state sector, which is an interesting and welcome move.

They're also looking at the big picture, promising a task force to investigate moving to a 35-hour working week, as seen up until recently in France. This would be a welcome shift, but again would be difficult to implement in a devolved employment market (actually, maybe not - you just introduce the time limit coupled with a mandatory overtime provision, or time in lieu for salaried workers). It's unlikely to increase employment as much as a simple analysis would suggest, but it's also unlikely to be as unsuccessful as the French implementation, due to our more flexible labour market. And OTOH, I don't see this as an employment policy anyway - it's more about promoting leisure, freeing us from the daily grind and giving us our lives back. If economic growth and productivity increases don't improve our wages (and they haven't - our employers have simply taken those profits and laughed all the way to the bank), we should take the benefits in leisure instead.

There's also a proposal for an extra Mondayised public holiday between Queens Birthday and Labour Day. I can think of a very good one happening right this week: Suffrage Day (September 19th). We should celebrate this every year, and a public holiday seems to be an excellent way of doing it.