I/S has a good post up about the human rights commission report "what next? national conversation about work". this is an extremely important piece of research, and dr judy mcgregor discussed some of the issues on nine to noon this monday (9.08am).
i was privileged to take part in this project, by being at one of the meetings that was held in hamilton. the waikato report can be found here, and yes, because i am a shameless attention-seeker, i have to point out that this person is me:
Participants spoke about the fear felt by ethnic workers when complaining about work conditions. "Ethnic workers don‟t complain because they‟re afraid that employers will find a way to get rid of them", one female Muslim worker said.
although i did say more than that: this is especially an issue for those migrant workers here on work permits. their ability to complain about conditions is almost nil, because loss of a job means being sent out of the country and i have personally encountered women who just wouldn't dare complain out of this fear. this is also an issue for migrants with permanent residence, because again, the costs of job loss is higher. access to welfare benefits is restricted, and there is already a considerable level of financial pressure caused by the shift to a different country and setting up home here. they just aren't prepared to take the risk of losing a job by complaining.
while we know that a complaint about work conditions, environment or equal pay shouldn't lead to the loss of a job, the reality is that there are ways to make the working environment even more difficult for the person who makes trouble. and those who are on work permits won't be in the country long enough to take a case against unfair dismissal.
i'd also like to highlight one of the issues that I/S raised: the fact that women want more transparency around pay:
One of the participants said, “Women are strongly discouraged from discussing our salaries with one another. I have no way of knowing if a male in my position with the same experience makes more than me. I would prefer transparency and the sharing of knowledge.”
Women in different areas of work expressed frustration at the lack of progress on pay and employment equity in both the public and private sectors.
this is one issue i feel really strongly about. i think both women and ethnic minorities suffer due to the secrecy around pay rates. i'd actually like to go back to the old awards system where pay rates were open, and people knew what others in the workplace were paid. secrecy allows discrimination to flourish and there is absolutely no need for it. if someone is performing better than others doing a similar job and they get paid more because of it, then everyone should know about it. if they're getting paid more for no apparent reason, then everyone should know about that too. fairness in pay is dependent on a free flow of information.
the report details "ten priorities for action on EEO". but who in this government is going to pick them up? the minister for labour, hon kate wilkinson? not holding my breath. the minister for women's affairs and ethnic affairs, hon pansy wong? haven't seen any concrete action from her thus far on any major issue, and she made no effort to stop the scrapping of the pay equity unit.
there really isn't anyone at all.