Labour bites

Kiwis lead the way on education

New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins has promised to scrap some official reporting requirements for teachers to reduce their workloads. He has set up a taskforce of education sector groups to report by September on how to “clear the clutter” of administrative reporting off teachers’ and principals’ desks.

“The purpose of this taskforce is to identify and assess compliance and administration tasks generated by external government agencies – including the Ministry of Education,” he says in a Cabinet paper released at an education summit in Christchurch.

“The taskforce will look for those tasks that are unnecessary, overly complex, or duplicative, with the aim of redesigning processes and reducing tasks, thereby reducing the burden of compliance and administration on principals and teachers.”

This is the first of many proposed pro-teacher reforms planned by the Minister. (Source: NZ Herald)

Hey boss, practise what you preach

Australia has stopped printing bank notes for the first time in a century after workers employed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) took a lead from the bank’s governor and went on strike for a bigger wage rise.

With wage growth in Australia crawling around the slowest pace on record, RBA governor Philip Lowe recently called on workers to demand fatter pay hikes, saying that average annual wage increases need to be about 3.5% to achieve average inflation of 2.5%, the middle of the bank’s target.

Workers at Note Printing Australia (NPA), a wholly owned subsidiary of the RBA, stopped work on Friday, demanding a 3.5% pay rise, rather than the industry average rate of 2% the central bank is offering.

“If it is so important to lift wages across the economy then here is a rolled gold opportunity for the Reserve Bank to show some leadership,” Tony Piccolo, regional secretary of print division at the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union said. “Governor Lowe needs to practise what he preaches.” (Source SMH)

Australia now OECD leader on insecure work

Australia is a global pacesetter in the creation of various forms of insecure employment, leaving only 60% of the workforce in standard, secure work according to a new report from the ACTU, Australia’s insecure work crisis: Fixing it for the future.

Australia has the third-highest rate of non standard forms of work in the OECD. Around 40% of all workers have fallen into insecure work, are part time or on short term contracts, are employed through a labour hire firm, the new 'gig economy' or as supposedly ‘independent’ contractors.

These forms of work are often used by employers to avoid their legal obligations to their employees. A full time, standard employee can expect all the leave entitlements, superannuation contributions and workplace protections that the union movement has fought for over centuries.

A labour hire worker, or someone on a short term contract, has little bargaining power and takes enormous risk standing up for better rights as well as having less rights than other workers in the first place. (Source ACTU)

Jobs for men only

As rich countries seek to rid workplaces of subtle gender bias, in many developing ones discrimination remains overt. According to the World Bank, women are barred from certain jobs in 104 countries.

Some countries publish lists of jobs deemed too dangerous for women (Russia’s 456 include driving a train or steering a ship). Others stop women from working in entire sectors, at night or in ‘morally inappropriate’ jobs (in Kazakhstan women cannot bleed or stun cattle, pigs or small ruminants). In four countries women cannot register a business. In 18 a husband can stop his wife working.

Some laws put women in the same category as children; they concern jobs seen as physically tough, such as mining, construction and manufacturing. Others relate to broader safety fears. In Mumbai, for example, female shopkeepers cannot work as late as male ones. Other laws are intended to protect capacity to bear children. “Such policies often have demographic motivations, especially in countries with low birth rates,” says the World Bank.

Spain did not lift restrictions on female workers in mining, electricity and some construction jobs until 1995 while others are of surprisingly recent origin: Vietnam’s ban on women driving tractors of 50 horsepower or more came into force in 2013. (Source: The Economist)

Compiled by John Quessy