Zero hour law could have been avoided

Just over a year ago I warned (paywalled) the business community to avoid using zero hour contracts because they would create a national backlash.

My argument was that zero hour contracts appeared unfair by ethical  standards of New Zealanders. Worse, these contracts were beginning to be experienced by children of the middle class. Their unfairness was the subject of BBQ conversations.

I warned that a middle-class backlash was about to happen, followed by politicians changing legislation.

To retain the flexibility they offered for unique situations, the business community needed to back off widespread use zero hour contracts. A couple of companies publicly stopped using them. Most did not, and leaders of the business community took no strong stance.

A little over a year on, the Opposition has managed to secure from National a change in legislation.

You’d think I would be happy with legislation stopping a practice I disliked. But I am not. Legislation, and legislators, are rarely subtle. No one is clever enough to understand and surgically excise behaviour from the billion-layered complexities and machinations of people.

Legislation always has unintended consequences. The business community was mad to let this happen. It’s not too late to make changes to the planned law within the legislative process. But it would have been better to have acted strongly enough in the first place to remove them as a political issue.

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