Thursday, 11 December 2008

Since we're on the topic of workers' rights....

National's 90 day probationary period bill has drawn a lot of flack or support around the blogosphere (depending on which side of the political spectrum the blog lies) so rather than rehash arguments that have already been made I thought I'd mention two employment stories that caught my eye.

The first is a blog by an employment law specialist lamenting two cases of women being fired for being pregnant. In both cases the employers tried to disguise the real reasons for the dismissal. It is sad that after decades of fighting for employment protection for pregnant workers this sort of shit is still going on. What is interesting is that Employment Relations Authority allowed one woman to apply for lost maternity pay while the other was denied. An inconsistent loophole that needs be closed.

The other story that bothered me recently was the reaction to Barack Obama's appointment of Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security (sheesh talk about an Orwellian title) where the chairman of the National Governors Association Ed Rendell was caught on an open mike saying:

"Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it."

Holy fuck.

CNN's lovely Campbell Brown takes the Democratic Governor to task over these matters with a wonderful three-pronged attack:

1. If a man had been Obama's choice for the job, would having a family or not having a family ever even have been an issue? Would it have ever prompted a comment? Probably not. We all know the assumption tends to be that with a man, there is almost always a wife in the wings managing those family concerns.

2. As a woman, hearing this, it is hard not to wonder if we are counted out for certain jobs, certain opportunities, because we do have a family or because we are in our child-bearing years. Are we? It is a fair question.

3. If you are a childless, single woman with suspicions that you get stuck working holidays, weekends and the more burdensome shifts more often than your colleagues with families, are those suspicions well-founded? Probably so. Is there an assumption that if you're family-free then you have no life? By some, yes.


Carol said...

I just saw Annette King deliver a real tour de force in parliament on the 90 day bill. This included a series of multiple choice questions to the Minister regarding contradictory information and responses (or non-responses) to the bill. And it included a story from a mother of a kiwi in the UK told under the UK probationary period rule that she wasn't enjoying her job and to pack and leave. King added that there may be a thought bubble over the boss's head saying something about the employee being pregnant, as the real reason for dismissal.

Dalzielle was pretty good in her questions/points too.

M-H said...

Yes, women without families are assumed to be available to work in the evening or at weekends - often by women with children. It never seems to occur to many people that women without obvious dependents might have a life. This is anecdotal, but just about any women without children will tell you stories about being asked to work on or at weird times "as you haven't got a family to get home to."

barvasfiend said...

I often think it's hard for men too - there is an assumption that wifey will take care of 'family concerns' and therefore they can and should be expected to work all manner of hours, and simply not have the time to enjoy their family. There is pressure there, I think, that men have to navigate.

The only way to get around this problem is to be realistic about the fact that both parents want to have family time, and make it possible for them to do so. There are few areas where the old fashioned notions of womanhood, mothering and 1950's breadwinning are more stark than employment relations.

Anonymous said...

I was at this protest: . It was great, although probably would have been better with more planning. I think we should have gone to Wayne Mapp's office.