Thursday, December 11, 2008

Don't shoot!

There's something disconcerting about the Fire at Will Bill, but I don't think it's personal. The Fire at Mike Bill doesn't have the same ring or salience as Fire at Will. Still, it's disconcerting. But I suppose that's what you get for having a name that's also a verb and a noun.

As far as post-election labour reform goes, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill is a pretty tame beast. In my youth, there was a more wild variation on this theme. Every time there was a change of government, unions oscillated between being compulsory and voluntary. The daddy of the current amendment, the Employment Relations Act 1990, killed this argument stone dead.

The only truly strong unionists left these days are the ones representing the police (Police Association), public servants (PSA), the lawyers (Law Society) , the doctors (Medical Association) and the accountants (Institute of Chartered Accountants). What little life and legitimacy that still exists in blue collar unions largely resides with the large institutional employers; nurses & EPMU. So by targeting the small and medium enterprises, not only does National throw a bone to small and medium businesses during straightened times, it avoids mobilising legions of directly affected pissed off unionists. It's too early in the term to have rampaging mobs of placard-weilding pram-pushers on Lambton Quay.

On the subject of pram pushers, it's an interesting precedent that Tony Ryall has set on the Herceptin decision. Funding drugs from the main Health budget and not from the Pharmac one is a novel solution to the problem. I wonder if Ryall is keen to go beyond the Pharmac model for access to medicinal cannabis too.

But I digress. I don't think that the threat of marchers antagonised by the effects of the Fire at Will Bill is the reason National has put it under urgency. The Act itself won't come into effect until April 1st 2009, but the implications and certainty of its start date will give many employers food for thought over the summer barbecues. Instead of bunkering down for the hard landing, they might think twice about not hiring staff if they have little to risk.

I'm cautiously supportive of the bill for personal reasons too. As an unemployee, I might even start looking for work again. The realm of the unemployed is growing quickly, and the range of skills and experience on offer at the slave market is already flooded. It's a hirers' market for team players, upsellers, 3D CV bearers and superlative interview sitters. Alas, my list of references is shorter than a bee's toenails, my work history a Jackson Pollock. Colourful but useless. There's not much demand for an army of one.

But by guaranteeing a low risk opportunity for employers, I might just be able to swing all that. Maybe. It couldn't be worse than the patronisingly slow torture of the Workbridge or Mainstream government programmes, which have been nothing more than false hope.