(File photo – Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Will workplace law changes satisfy everyone?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Major workplace reform bill moves forward, dire warning for Hutt Valley from climate change, and plans are afoot to pedestrianise large parts of Auckland City.

The coalition government has signed off on the workplace relations changes that they intend to pass into law, reports Stuff. The bill passed a second reading of Parliament last night. Many of the changes are basically a return to the situation while Labour was last in government, between 1999 and 2008, a full list of which are in the story. But they aren’t quite what was originally promised by Labour, having reportedly been delayed and watered down by influential coalition partner NZ First. So, will anyone be completely satisfied with the outcome?

This story from Interest offers a clue – not entirely so being the answer for everyone. Business NZ went really hard against the bill in the early stages of its development, and are now calling the outcome “more acceptable.” In particular, employers will now be able to opt out of ‘Multi Employment Collective Agreements’ (which will henceforth forever be known as MECAs) if the objection is on reasonable grounds – more on that in a bit.

That was one of their key concerns, the example Business NZ boss Kirk Hope gave to the NBR (paywalled) being Ports – if negotiations were started across the sector, then no Port could withdraw, even if their circumstances were really different. And as was reported on Morning Report today, Federated Farmers are also welcoming softening of rules around union delegate access to work sites.

As for the unions, they want more. The CTU says it will make workplaces fairer, and that while good employers will barely notice any difference, the changes will give workers the power to push back against exploitative employers. But they’re also pushing for a complete scrapping of the 90 day trial law in particular, along with other unspecified “further moves” in the area.

Why did NZ First put up objections? That’s explained in this NZ Herald story. Winston Peters says cities and provinces are different, and what flies in one won’t work in another. Here’s one example of what ‘reasonable grounds’ means – to quote Mr Peters – “we’re not going to have an Auckland-established union practice rammed down the throats of the provinces. How can Whanganui be Auckland?” While provincial businesses don’t necessarily have the same problems to deal with as city businesses, I’d be fascinated to know if provincial workers felt the same way about their own problems.

National, meanwhile, say the law changes still go far too far, and their employment relations spokesperson Scott Simpson has interpreted it as a loss for Mr Peters. He dropped a mega-neg on NZ First by describing them as a “junior partner” who have “failed to get any substantial push-back on what is an ideologically driven bill.” He says the National party will continue to back “workplace flexibility.”

And one thing to keep in mind too about all of this – law changes are one thing, but in purely economic terms, workers should theoretically have much more power to demand improvements right now than they did a couple of years ago. With the unemployment rate at such low levels, and places like Ashburton and Marlborough suffering such chronic labour shortages, simple supply and demand might end up having a telling effect on wage rates and workplace conditions, at least in the short and medium term.


The front page of the Dominion Post today carries a dire warning for the future of Petone and Lower Hutt amid climate change. The low-lying area is already particularly vulnerable to flooding and rising sea levels. The new warning comes from a report commissioned by the Hutt City Council, which also notes that within 30 years some homes in the area may be uninsurable.


Auckland Council staff have been directed to come up with plans to pedestrianise large parts of Auckland City, reports the NZ Herald. Mayor Phil Goff says trials in various areas will start next year, by opening streets to pretty much everyone except vehicle traffic. He says the overwhelming trend for how the CBD is being used is an increase in foot traffic, and that needs to be embraced. The number of people arriving in the central city is also expected to skyrocket, with the opening of the City Rail Link, scheduled for 2024.


Tongan students at Kia Aroha College in Ōtara have spoken out against the education system trying to ‘fix’ Māori and Pasifika kids, reports the NZ Herald. They’re pleading for their values and culture to be given as much weight and meaning as Western culture is in the school system, and say what needs to be fixed is “the whiteness of our education system”. The students will be giving that message at an education research conference.


A female teenager has been groped and sexually harassed after a Young Nats event, reports Newsroom. Police are investigating the incident, which occurred in Auckland earlier this month. The teenager was a guest at the event, and is not a member of the Young Nats. Newsroom later followed up with an update about how the teenager, who is 17, was not checked for ID despite the event taking place at a bar.

There’s a bit of conjecture over who the alleged perpetrator is, and whether or not they are known to the National party. The original story said “Newsroom has been told the National Party has suspended the Young Nats man involved, barring him from any further events. But a story from Newshub later contradicted that, saying as the party did not know who the man was, he might still be able to attend party functions.


Post offices in their present form are destined for the scrapheap, reports Radio NZ. Instead, a few options are being suggested. They include franchising out services to places like supermarkets and pharmacies, or government funded regional hubs that could handle both banking and post services. While use of Post offices has been declining for a long time, those who still use them tend to be very loyal to them (much like with a local bank branch.) So even if the option that gets taken makes sense, it could still be controversial.


There’s going to be a major independent external review into bullying and harassment of Parliamentary staff, reports Newshub. It’s considered to be a really tough, high stress place, and the review aims to proactively make it safer and more supportive. The review has been initiated by Speaker Trevor Mallard, which anyone with a long memory for politics will find absolutely delicious.


Community paper job losses have been confirmed at Stuff, reports Radio NZ. The papers they were formerly employed by will remain open and publishing, however the content in them will become more heavily sourced from Neighbourly.


Now, a correction: The three referendums bit was wrong yesterday. Because of the mistake in the editing process, I swapped out euthanasia reform for abortion reform, which has in fact been ruled out as something to go to referendum. So apologies for that, and just to be perfectly clear, the three issues that have been flagged for referendums are MMP, euthanasia, and marijuana legalisation.


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Right now on The Spinoff: We’re launching the first of two films in the Aren’t Can’t Don’t series about women, who for whatever reason, are not voting. Author and feminist legend Clementine Ford joined the On the Rag podcast for a very special episode. Holly Bagge delved into the dubious promises made in the world of multi-level marketing companies, which are taking root in NZ. And I offered something of a rebuttal to some anti-cycling propaganda that was pumped out on the airwaves yesterday.


So this piece today won’t be of interest to everyone, but it’s a really good example of great feature writing. It’s from The Cut, and is about controversial actor and writer Lena Dunham. You might know her from the show Girls, or you might know her from the many times she’s infuriated and insulted all manner of people. In internet speak, she’s been ‘cancelled’ many, many times, and all around seems to be a difficult person to like.

That’s why this article is so good though. It doesn’t just drag Dunham, it humanises her. And it does so using canny observation of detail, and a keen understanding of why people choose to like or dislike people they see in media. Here’s an excerpt:

They officially broke up a month after her hysterectomy. It was a mutual decision, she tells me. The breakup felt real to Dunham only when she saw the announcement on E! and paparazzi showed up at her home. She has processed her feelings publicly; her 5.6 million followers saw her tweet out a list of baby names she wrote with Antonoff in 2015. (“Hey @jackantonoff I just found a potential baby name list we made in 2015. I could definitely keep this private, but then the world wouldn’t know that you suggested ‘Carrot’ over and over … Love u!!!”)

“I still think it’s funny,” she says. After the list went out, she called Antonoff a few times and he didn’t pick up right away. (He was in the studio). When he got back to her, he said, “No, it’s funny.” “He knows that being the hysterical ex-girlfriend is kinda like the weirdest, funniest, public performance.” But it hurts, too, she admits. It hurts looking at his new girlfriend’s Instagram stories (Antonoff is reportedly dating model Carlotta Kohl). “I thought I was kind of proving weird girls can have love too. And now he’s dating somebody who looks regular and normal and like girls are supposed to look.”


Shaun Johnson has requested an early release from his contract at the Warriors, reports the NZ Herald. But the club hasn’t so far budged, and even though they don’t intend to sign him on star money again when his contract finishes at the end of 2019, they still want him to see it out. A decision hasn’t yet been reached on what will be done to resolve the situation, but one serious problem for the club is that they don’t really have a tried and tested backup playmaker, after young Mason Lino signed with Newcastle.

And the Black Caps have lost their second test against Pakistan, so the series is now locked 1-1 with one to play. They were treated to a spinning masterclass from Yasir Shah, who took 14 wickets over the match, including a triple wicket maiden in the first innings.

Finally, I thought competitive ploughing was totally obscure when I shared that Guardian piece yesterday, but this made me think again. It turns out a feature was published on Noted earlier this year about competitive ploughing in New Zealand! It’s wild to think how many people out there might be into this as a sport.


From our partners: Lithium-ion batteries are magnificent feats of engineering and vital for renewable energy. But if we’re not careful with them, they’ll create enormous environmental problems, writes Vector Senior Sustainability Advisor Juhi Shareef.


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