[Documents menu]Labor history of Aotearoa - New Zealand
Message-ID: <E1612C6FB9F6CF11990D0000B4528C43062257@www.reddfish.co.nz>
From: Michael Gilchrist <Michael.Gilchrist@TradesHall.Org.NZ>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 1997 16:49:24 +1300

Labor unions protest ammendment of Holidays and Employment Contract Acts

Media statement
10 December 1997

Around 3,000 workers filled Parliament Grounds in Wellington New Zealand this afternoon in protest at the Government proposals to ammend the Holidays and Employment Contracts Acts to further erode the conditions of New Zealand workers. This protest in Wellington was just one of a number organised by trade unions throughout the country this week.

Speakers at the rally included Maxine Gay, President of the Trade Union Federation, Labour MP Pete Hodgson, Alliance MP Laila Harre and NZCTU Vice President Ross Wilson.

All speakers drew the parallels between the proposed reforms of the Holidays Act, the disasterous effect that the Employment Contracts Act alredy had on workers and the proposals to ammend the ECA to further reduce the rights and bargaining power of workers.

In a resolution put at the end of the rally, the 3,000 workers voted to continue the campaign against the Holidays Act and for the repeal of the ECA. They voted to return to Parliament and protest at its February opening next year, if the proposals over the Holidays Act were not withdrawn by then.

Speech notes of Maxine Gay, President, NZ Trade Union Federation, rally, Parliament grounds, Wednesday, 10 December 1997

For further information please contact:
Tel: (04) 384 8963
Fax: (04) 384 8007 or

Normally at this time of year we are wishing each other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In a state of annual exhaustion we would be looking forward to our well earned summer break after an even busier year than the one before.

This year though there is a dark cloud hanging over the future of our holidays. That dark cloud is Max Bradford and his Review of the Holidays Act.

Max and his cronies in the Government say that they are undertaking the review to make the Holidays Act "fairer". This should cause us great alarm. In the name of fairness the former National Party Minister of Labour, Bill Birch, said the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 was being introduced to provide a "fairer" system of Labour Relations in New Zealand.

And we know what the so-called "fairer" Employment Contracts Act has done for New Zealand workers.

Most of us have lost overtime pay. The 40 hour week has gone. Many of us have had our sick leave or long service leave reduced. Many people have had their wages reduced. And most of us have had very little, if any, wage increase over the last six years.

If this is the concept of fairness that Max and his gang are bringing to change the Holiday's Act, then we don't want a bar of it!!!

New Zealand workers already have amongst the lowest entitlements to holidays in the world. A genuine fair system of holidays would give us more holiday entitlements, not less. We deserve four weeks annual leave, not one week taken away from us.

Give us a break, Max!!

But we are here today not only out of concern at the Holidays Review but because of the effects of the ECA that I have already mentioned. The proposals of Max and his mates to unleash a further attack on workers must be resisted in the strongest possible terms.

Seven months ago, on the 15th of May, we demonstrated here to begin the fightback against the Employment Contracts Act. Our demonstration was also against the second wave of the ECA that the Employers Federation and Business Round Table were starting to peddle; an agenda that has become more obvious day by day.

The people who took part in that demonstration were members of the affiliates of the Trade Union Federation, members of the National Distribution Union, the Service Workers Union, and the Waterfront Workers Union, members of the Wellington Peoples Centre, other community organisations, and Alliance and Labour Members of Parliament.

The 15th of May 1997, was of course the 6th anniversary of the enactment of the filthy Employment Contracts Act.

The May rally, and similar events that took place throughout the country on that day were very significant. For 6 years the trade unions of this country had been suffering from the defeat inflicted on our movement from the passing the ECA in 1991.

We acknowledged that we were still suffering from the aftermath of our surrender to that Act in 1991 at a time when workers up and down the country were taking unprecedented action, but our leadership of the time refused to co-ordinate this struggle into a General or National Strike.

In 1997 we are still suffering from the impact of the Act which has seen unions having to run, not just to stand still, but to stop going out the back door. Trade Unions have been unbelievably busy over the last six years. But this busy-ness has been trying to adjust to the ECA and simply stay afloat in such dreadful conditions. It had taken us six years to regroup and commit ourselves to the industrial and political struggle against the Employment Contracts Act. A struggle that must be waged both in the streets, and at the ballot box.

The second wave of the ECA that has been promoted by the Employers Federation and the BRT includes proposals such as:

  • dismissal at will
  • the axing of the Employment Court and Tribunals
  • the removal of ACC for minor injuries
  • the abolition of the minimum wage
  • adverse changes to the Holidays Act
  • introduction of work for the dole
  • and the expansion of prison labour into production for the market

We now see from various leaked Government papers, the Holiday's Act Review, and the Prison Employment Policy, that many of these proposals have been taken up by the Government.

These three devils, the Government, the BRT and the Employers Federation have to be stopped. We have to stop them.

We in the Trade Union Federation have committed ourselves to struggle:

to repeal the ECA
to defeat the second wave of the ECA and
to stop slave labour, workfare, and the other attacks on unemployed and beneficiaries.

We have committed ourselves to struggle for "Jobs with Justice"!

Let us build and widen this unity in struggle.

This rally must not be the end of the campaign. If we are to defeat these disgusting proposals, then we must commit ourselves to ongoing industrial and political action. We must build on the unity that is evident at this rally and bring down the Government.

Comrades, our struggles against the ECA, against the second wave of the ECA, and against the changes to the Holidays Act are not in isolation.

We are involved in an international struggle of workers against the insatiable demands of the global corporations and their client states.

Two week ago I marched with more than 5,000 trade unionists and others in Vancouver against APEC and its anti-people ideology and policies. I marched then not just out of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in other countries, but also for our own members in the clothing, footwear, furniture and car assembly industries - workers who will lose their jobs if the Government reduces tariff levels to zero, as proposed by APEC.

More and more we are becoming aware of the serious effects that the proposed Multi-lateral Agreement on Investment (the MAI) will have on our lives. The MAI has been called the "freedom charter for multi-national enterprises", that is a very apt description.

On this, International Human Rights Day, let us remind ourselves:

we are workers, not human resources
we are people, not economic units
that human rights must have priority over corporate rights

It is fantastic to see so many people here today in this, another step in our goal:

to defeat the ECA
to defeat the attempt to steal our holidays
to defeat the National First Government and
to defeat the domination of our lives by the corporates and international capital

The road will be difficult
But in the end, victory will be ours!

Kia kaha!

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