Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Robbing workers

The government's defence of their plan to allow employers to steal our holidays is to talk about "choice". Employees can "choose" to surrender their holidays in exchange for money, just as they can "choose" what they will be paid and what hours they will work. The comparison isn't facetious; its a direct illustration of the realities of the workplace: the employer has the power, and nine times out of ten they make the rules and impose them on employees. "Choice" simply doesn't enter into it.

But they're also suggesting that its not such a great deal for employers anyway. For example, John Key in his press conference yesterday:

Mr Key said he did not believe employers would do this because there was no great advantage to them as they still had to pay out the fourth week. He said the swap would probably be decided on an annual basis. Swapping a week's leave for the money effectively gives employees a 2 per cent pay rise.
This, of course, assumes that employers will pay what those holidays are actually worth. To which you really have to ask: why the hell would they do that? It's also worth pointing out that they already have to - if you don't take your full leave entitlement, they eventually have to pay you for it one way or another (when you move on or are made redundant, for example). So they're paying that 2% anyway. The whole point of this move is to let them pay less than that, by using the imbalance of bargaining power to force workers to "choose" to accept a token payment ($50, $100, $200, whatever) in exchange for that extra week. The whole point is to let employers rob workers.

Its just another example of how National is redistributing wealth upwards into the fat pockets of its rich friends. The rich get tax cuts; everyone else gets to work longer for less pay for their greater profit. As I said yesterday, it is class warfare - and ordinary New Zealanders are the targets.