Monday, March 23, 2009

Now they're stealing our holidays

The first act of the National Party on taking power in November was to repeal Labour's tax cuts to the poor and redistribute the money (plus some extra gained from reducing KiwiSaver entitlements) to their rich friends instead. Then they rammed the 90-day fire-at-will law through under urgency, stripping new workers of any employment protection and making every single one of us less secure in our employment. And now, to add insult to injury, they're planning on stealing our fourth week of annual leave as well:

The Government will let employers offer staff a cash payment to replace the fourth week of their annual holidays, reversing a crucial element of the previous Government's Holidays Act.

Labour's law made it illegal to pay cash in lieu of the holiday entitlement and union leaders yesterday predicted the change would result in most workers having to settle for a return to three weeks of annual leave.

The reason for that prediction is that, contrary to right-wing fiction, the employment relationship is not an equal one. Employers will simply demand that that fourth week be "cashed in" (likely for nothing), take it or leave it. And in a recession with growing unemployment and desperation, they'll be able to get away with it.

(As for the argument that this gives workers the "choice" to work, they already have it. Nothing says that people have to use all their leave. the fact that they do speaks volumes about the relative value we put on leisure versus work, and how much we value having control over our own time).

These policies follow a consistent pattern, and there's a name for that pattern. It's an old, ugly name, which we don't hear often in New Zealand anymore: class warfare. Normally that term is used as a pejorative for any attempt to increase equality or improve working conditions, but here we're seeing it from the opposite direction: National is waging class warfare against the vast majority of New Zealanders, seeking to redistribute society's wealth away from us and further into the pockets of its rich friends. Just like they did in the 90's.