It is fair to say that a movement is occurring whereby employees are slowly having their rights eroded. Just take the Private Members Bill in parliament that has the capability of reversing many of the gains workers have fought so hard for over the years. One could almost say that this move is tantamount to stripping workers of the right to collective bargaining. Let’s face it, there is no difference between workers putting up the price of their labour and that of a ‘producer’ raising prices for goods and services. Getting the balance fair and right is the main thrust in worker-employer relationship. What is worrying is the trend towards loss of workers’ conditions of employment.
When one sees the headlines in the NZ Herald today about a boss who made his employee ‘beg for gas’ in order to complete a bread run, one is left wondering how low some bosses can go. That the ERA ordered full and fair compensation is an indication that at least in some quarters there is recognition of fairness and reasonable treatment of workers. Yes, it is on the extreme edge for examples of what can go wrong, but dig deep and I am sure you would find many more examples, especially for those lowly paid workers being exploited by unscrupulous bosses in the restaurant industry.
Let us not throw away the gains made by past generations to improve the lot of workers. We do not want to see a return to times when a worker was seen as merely a means of increasing the wealth of a tiny minority, leaving a vast faceless and subjugated body of workers at the bottom of the heap. Have I just described the ever increasing gap between the rich and poor? Is that feared scenario actually upon us, camouflaged by a drip-down of a weakening welfare state?
Maybe history has come back to bite us in our rear ends. It seems that an uncaring Government is already embarking on a journey that will be very difficult for us to turn away from. At least we have read about a tiny victory. Is the time coming when we will not see such reports? Perhaps they will be buried under countless anti-worker pieces of legislation about to be thrust upon us by an increasingly isolated Government.