The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'industrial relations'
Welcome to the new age of austerity: Britain's Tory-led government is planning to abolish unfair dismissal laws and make it easier to sack workers, in the hope that Britain rides a Texas-style wave of increased productivity as employees compete against each other to keep their jobs. Also, young jobseekers will have to work without pay for private employers, for up to 30 hours a week, or lose their unemployment benefits. In other words, the government is subsidising below-minimum-wage jobs, keeping unemployment high (after all, why hire someone for minimum wage, when the government will send someone who has to work for nothing?) and transferring funds from the public coffers to private industry (undoubtedly to be returned in electoral contributions to the Conservative Party when the next election comes around).
Meanwhile, as Europe hits the doldrums, the Tory Right are pushing to use this as an opportunity to unilaterally renegotiate Britain's EU treaty obligations, in particular those which introduce socialistic inefficiencies like workers' rights and move British industrial relations westwards over the Atlantic. Britain is aggressively opposing plans to institute a financial transaction tax in Europe, and is set to win a permanent exemption from the working time directive, which limits working hours to 48 hours a week (in a rolling average over several weeks), unless workers individually opt out. I wonder how long until other inefficiencies like Britain's statutory annual leave provisions (which are fairly generous, especially compared to our cousins across the pond) are tossed onto the scrapheap. (The NHS looks set to be Americanised out of existence, and the rest of the welfare state is likely to go, first being changed from a universal system to one solely for the poorest and then progressively impoverished, on the grounds that most voters won't ever get anything from it and, hey, beggars can't be choosers.) David Cameron's Britain is set to look less like continental Europe and more like Rick Perry's Texas.
Under John Howard's industrial-relations reforms, workers will be able to cash in 2 weeks of paid leave. Which is how the Tories put it; the unions are warning that employers could insist on employees waiving two weeks of leave; the Howard government has refused to prevent this from happening, claiming that Australian workers need to become more globally competitive. Given that Australians already work longer hours than many other countries (including Europe, the USA and Japan), this argument seems spurious.
High-value employees will, of course, be able to benefit from the increased flexibility and insist on the full four weeks (or even more; some companies, for example, give workers an option to do the opposite of this deal, and take extra unpaid leave); meanwhile, deskilled and interchangeable employees will probably get a US-style 10 days' leave a year. Then again, given that a lot of such employees work casual jobs, and don't get leave entitlements, one could argue that not much will change.
No word on whether leave loading or long-service leave (an artefact of a time when many of Australia's workers were European immigrants who desired to visit families abroad) will survive the reforms, though I wouldn't bet on it.
You know those American Apparel "sweat-shop free" T-shirts with the reality-porn-style ads in VICE Magazine and such? Well, apparently the company is not quite as ethically sound as it claims to be:
According to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board and settled by the company, American Apparel engaged in tactics of intimidation to bust an attempt at unionization, including interrogating workers about their support for a union, soliciting workers to withdraw their union authorization cards and threatening to close the facility if a union was formed. The company also allegedly printed armbands to be worn at work which read, "no union," and forced employees to attend an anti-union rally.
As a result of their settlement with the National Labor Relations Board, American Apparel signed an agreement promising not to engage in union-busting tactics in the future.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out a return to the 40-hour work week as part of the Tories' industrial-relations reforms. Which could mean (a) that Australia gets to keep its socialistically inefficient 38-hour week (Oh, the lost productivity!), or possibly that working hours will be deregulated, as they are in the UK (where employment contracts routinely include clauses waiving the EU's 48-hour work week limit).
The Australian Tory government has revealed its workplace reforms today. They're not quite as bad as they could be; Australians get to keep 4 weeks of annual leave as a basic entitlement, for example, rather than going to a US-style one-week-if-your-employer-likes-you system, and working weeks remain at 35 to 40 hours (as opposed to the EU's 48, or the UK's unlimited length). Though the right to appeal unfair dismissals has been abolished, and niceties like leave loading and long-service leave could be subject to how much your employer wants your services when your contract is signed.
Coca-Cola does a Nike and has been availing themselves of the local right-wing death squads' assistance in sorting out labour problems; this time, in Colombia. Nothing like the disappearance of some trouble-making organiser, their mutilated corpse later to be found in a sewer, to keep the employees compliant and docile. Coca-Cola, however, denies involvement, saying that the bottling plants aren't owned or operated by them (much like the Nike factories, right?) Though, surely, if the plants have to meet a quality standards to earn the valuable and tightly controlled Coca-Cola trademark (and I doubt that Coca-Cola would want someone attaching their brand name to bottles of muddy water), the parent company could equally insist that they not torture or kill their employees, no?