Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
World's first Starbucks strike
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
And we thought things were getting better....
Monday, October 10, 2005
Supersize My Pay
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Monday, September 26, 2005
Health workers to strike
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
eating my words
It's all about balance
Monday, September 12, 2005
Those sneaky Nats
Sunday, July 17, 2005
The latest assault across the Tasman
Newly discovered blog
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Blog and Submission
Friday, July 01, 2005
Worker collectives and multi-agent jobs
This theory attempts to outline the view that when jobs that can be shared among others or are ‘multi-agent’, are subject to standard market forces and lack an effective worker collective in their place of employment, workers in these positions like these will be less able to bargain for an increase in terms and conditions over time.
Firstly, the terms will be defined, specifically: ‘multi-agent’ jobs, ‘standard market forces’, ‘effective worker collective’ and ‘net decrease in terms and conditions over time’. Then the theory will be introduced and discussed.
‘Multi-agent’ jobs are those in which the work to be completed is largely of a ‘care’ nature as opposed to ‘responsibility’ and where there are multiple agents or workers employed to complete the common task. What this means is that the workers have equal or comparable training and all that the common task comprises can be completed by another agent. The unplanned absence of one or multiple agents does not stop the work being done, however it may result in a slower delivery of service or product. Examples of these are inbound call centres with similarly or generically trained agents, checkout operators, large-scale caterers and retail sales staff paid solely by salary or in combination with negligible commission potential.
‘Standard market forces’ refers to a market-driven labour market that is subject to limited regulations governing areas such as minimum wage floors, youth rates, hire and fire rights of employers, employment contracts and health and safety. The
‘Effective worker collective’ refers to a democratically-run collective of workers that is effective in securing positive changes to the terms and conditions at their place of work. Effectiveness in this case will generally revolve around the level to which the workers are ‘organised’ and able to apply pressure on the employer to grant a concession or change a practice. References to the word ‘union’ in current industrial legislation secure (what some regard as monopolistic) rights for trade unions to represent workers. While there is no compulsion for a trade union to be affiliated to the Council of Trade Unions (NZ), it is a separate argument as to whether such affiliation is a strategic necessity for survival and will not be considered here. The definition of a union is likewise a separate argument and warrants discussion at another time.
‘Terms and conditions over time’ refers to employment contract that covers the workers and governs all aspects of the work, including hours of work, penal rates, perks, disciplinary measures and employee conduct. ‘Over time’ refers to the period from when the contract is negotiated to when it is renegotiated. Where collective agreements can expire anywhere between six months to two or three years, individual contracts may not be renegotiated regularly or for long periods of time.
This theory is built also on two conditions: that the industry faces genuine supply of skilled workers and the supply is primarily steady with few prolonged troughs. While there may be variances in the level of skill in each individual worker, it is held that such variances will be in excess of the level of skill required to complete the job. Workers may have industry or other experience that warrants limited on-the-job training in order to counter issues with proprietory systems or products unique to that employer, which are not in themselves necessarily skill deficiencies but knowledge deficiencies.
As workers on individual employment agreements are unable to withhold labour (‘strike’) without breaking their conditions of employment, arguments for a rise in their terms and conditions will hinge on: employer goodwill, employer fear of losing trained staff to competitors, employer fear of productivity through willful misperformance of work.
Where there are multiple agents performing a similar job, the employer runs the risk of being resented for favouratism shown to certain staff through increased wage or perk entitlements and affecting productivity or losing trained staff. Where the employer wishes to show goodwill and reward all staff, direct monetary entitlements are less likely to be employed as they are a direct cost to the employer that may not create the desired effect: perhaps even a negative response through a perception of being ‘bought out’ or paid to ‘keep quiet’ as it were. Indirect rewards such as a one-off dinner, social event or gift package for staff have the potential to create goodwill even where the monetary value of such outlay is less than a one-off payment. An ongoing monetary reward (eg. performance targets, wage rises) is likely to be more expensive because an ongoing monetary reward that is geared to be low-cost runs the risk of alienating and offending workers, and a sizeable increase based on goodwill alone may conflict with business interests in keeping unnecessary costs low. This is particularly true in industries where goodwill has little or negligible effect, evidenced by high staff turnover.
If, as mentioned earlier, there is a healthy supply of skilled workers, then employer fears of losing trained staff may be mitigated. Primary sources of concern however relate to the training of new employees: whether it is a costly process (time or directly financial) and whether the training of employees unnecessarily disrupts service or product delivery. In the absence of a dedicated trainer or team of trainers, an employer will find it costly to train new employees, either if trained directly by the employer or if existing employees scale down their work-rate in order to demonstrate or teach the new employee. Generally, there are three levels in an industry which will affect the cost of training a new employee: the complexity of the task or industry and therefore length of time required to become self-sufficient, the extent of proprietary knowledge required to complete the task and whether or not the employee can become sefl-sufficient by themselves or, if another staff member has to be diverted to assist them, how long that staff member is diverted from their work. Accordingly, employer concerns over replacing trained staff will vary based on the industry and task, as well as the size of the employer and presence of any dedicated training structure.
Employers’ fears over reduced productivity as a result of a dispute with a staff member are generally in the advantaged position. However, if there is a skills shortage or if significant legal obstacles exist to timely and reasonable dismissal of recalcitrant staff, then these fears are much greater due to potential financial loss through litigation resulting from aggrieved staff. There is much debate over the extent to which legislation designed to protect workers and the right to pursue personal grievances unfairly constricts workers, however that is a debate unable to be addressed in this post. In
However, staff on an individual agreement essentially have two options: ‘voice’ and ‘choice’. Ultimately, voice will be ineffective if employed outside of a legally-protected collective of workers as there is no credible threat behind ‘voice’. Unless contractually specified, ‘choice’ can occur at any time and remains ultimately the worker’s sovereign prerogative. Where a worker in a multi-agent job dissents or otherwise attempts to meaningfully negatively influence productivity, such attempts will be steadily more ineffective, the higher the number of other workers available to pick up the overflow.
Effective organisation by a legally-protected collective of workers is able to genuinely threaten an employer’s productivity and therefore provide leverage for their claims. For individual workers in multi-agent positions however, they will have steadily less luck where the number of additional agents grows, where their job complexity and training needs decrease and where there is healthy competition from the market for skilled workers. While there are other conditions for the effectiveness of a collective of workers, the optimum conditions for individuals to improve their terms and conditions exist in low-scale worksites where the cost of providing perks to all staff is more palatable or where there is a skills shortage.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
About this blog
Friday, April 22, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Lyttelton Port workers settle for pay deal
Monday, April 11, 2005
Bus drivers call off more action
University of Auckland staff to strike
Thursday, April 07, 2005
On the Wire: NZ workers demand equity with Australian workers
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Furniture workers to strike!
Keep it clean - strike!
Monday, April 04, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
Trading Restrictions and Holydays
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Fitter, happier, more productive...
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
'Once again, Labour's forgotten people, those who take personal responsibility for themselves and their families, are expected to shoulder the burden. Unless we take serious steps to change the situation, the number of children born into unsatisfactory circumstances will continue to grow. And the number of women trapped in dependency will continue to grow.'Brash seems to sneer at those he postulates that he is attempting to help - suggesting that somehow people on the DPB have failed themselves and their families. Yes, education is a good thing - basic literacy auditing may well be helpful at WINZ offices - and yes, we want adults who can read and write, and if they can't then we should help them to gain those (and other valuable skills for self-education). Hell, let's start educating them properly even before they're of child-bearing age??? I daresay that student debt is looming as a big threat to women and trapping them into dependency: NZUSA, CEVEP and the NZ CTU think so too. In short, Brash again talks economics under the guise of politics. Workers beware, especially with what he has to say about the dole. Read his speech on the link above, and make up your own mind. Talk to other people about it. Talk, talk, talk about what is good for workers. What is that you need this week or next? How likely is the National Party to deliver a tax cut to low income workers? Read, think, talk.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Behind the bamboo curtain...
The rise of the Chinese 'dragon economy' and the opulence and extravagance that have followed in it's path in China's large cities have received much media attention: Shanghai is reliving it's excessive 'glory days' of the 1930s, while cities like Beijing, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Nanjing have huge construction projects and booming internal economies. Economic growth is said to be 9.7%, with millions of dollars of investments flowing in from overseas. One could easily be led to believe things were looking up for China's residents, under the supposedly benevolent gaze of the aggressively pro-business 'market socialist' Gongchandang (Chinese Communist Party). Things, however, are definitely not all rosy for most of China's inhabitants and especially for the 120 million plus 'peasant workers' or 'wai bao gong': these workers are men from the economically sleepy countryside who are looking for work in the booming urban, commercial and industrial areas of the booming coastal main cities. These waibaogong are generally given utterly pathetic wages equivalent to a few New Zealand cents a day, are given meagre food and terrible shanty-town like housing. Not exactly the company flat and Mazda you're offered at that $100,000 job you could get down in Wellington any other day, is it ? Additionally, as the Chinese Communist Party 'is' the workers of China, trade unions are banned along with strikes: the logic being you don't protest against yourself. But, as things have hugely changed since the times of Mao Zedong, this only means that the peasant workers in the cities have effectively zero legal protection. Chinese authorities for years have been turning a blind eye in order to allow businessmen with good guanxi (connections) cheap labour to in turn continue to fuel and stoke China's rocketing economic growth. In this context, workers' militancy becomes inevitable, and with the increasing importance of China's working population, they have received a major confidence boost. Illegal strikes have been exponentially increasing all over China, with over 60,000 in the year 2004 alone, viewing some more knowledgeable commentators to suggest that this is something of a Tiananmen Mark Two, the only difference being that the 1989 uprisings were centralised in main cities and were primarily anti-government, whereas in this case there is an extremely widespread grass-roots movement that challenges the Government but is not by nature anti-Governmental. Defenders of waibaogong are emerging in earnest though, with people like 'The Peasant Hero' and others who are strongly trying to re enfranchise these poor souls.
In conclusion, even this phenomenon is only temporary, the Chinese Government ought to urgently intervene to make sure that peasant workers are not being severely mistreated by their employers. It would be naive to think they could give all these workers an apartment and a higher wage, considering over a hundred million in China still live below the poverty line, but a little help goes a long way.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Holidays, Leave and Family
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Have a look
Monday, January 03, 2005
International response to the tsunami disaster
Via LabourStart: "In the wake of the massive tsunami disaster which has hit South and Southeast Asian countries on 26 December, the ICFTU has written to its affiliated and friendly organisations in the countries concerned, expressing its condolences, support and solidarity to trade unions, their members, families and communities." [More from the ICFTU] Here is a link if you want to find amcam of the tsunami footage - via DPF Talk to your union to find out what they're doing to help in the aftermath.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
Australian Immigration rort
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Drug testing at work
Friday, December 24, 2004
James Hardie and compensation
Appeal Court dismisses NZ Herald case
Friday, December 17, 2004
Back to three weeks' annual?
Christmas Cherry with Westpac's Sherry
Nurse's package offer
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Herald on Sunday
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
China and Industrial Relations
Monday, November 29, 2004
Sky City and anti-union tactics
I write in support of the Service and Food Worker’s Union member who has been issued with a disciplinary warning following his refusal to remove a badge celebrating Labour Day... I assert that your actions in this instance are unfair, because you have singled out one employee from a number of others members who were also wearing badges... If you victimise one union member, you anatagonise all... I appreciate that you may conduct your employee affairs as you see fit, however I ask you to rethink your actions in this case. Singular and targeted disciplinary action is not the way to build a cohesive worker-employer relationship. As a Finsec member, I remind you that your actions against union members at your site impact union members across the country.
One of the emails from the website:
"On the weekend of the 12th, 13th and 14th our Social Club ( 36 people) were going up to Auckland to spend the weekend at your Casino... I have been asked to inform you by the other members that due to your companys attitude we will now not be coming to the Sky City Casino and we will be sending out that same message to every one else we know."
The campaign appears to be active still, check out the SFWU website for details and some of the other emails that people sent through.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
New Zealand's shocking workplace record
A report by the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee says between 700 and 1000 people die each year from occupational diseases such as cancer, respiratory disease and ischaemic heart disease. Another 100 people die from workplace injury...' Full article