Andrew Little writes that changes to laws that take away workers' rights are unfair and unjust.
Changing laws doesn't create jobs and the Government's latest moves to erode workers' rights won't either.
Whether it's trial periods or new requirements to have a medical certificate after a single day's sick leave, law changes that make work less fair just make work a less rewarding experience.
The existing 90-day "trial period" law introduced in March 2009 permits small employers to hire a new worker under a clause allowing the worker to be sacked within the first 90 days of employment with no recourse if the sacking is unfair or unjust.
But the "trial" law is completely different to our "probationary" law, and the two should not be confused.
Under our probationary law an employer and a worker can agree on a probationary period (which can be longer than 90 days) to try out a new worker. Under this law, the employer is required to give regular feedback during the probationary period, at the end of which if the employer is not satisfied with the performance the worker can be dismissed.
It is pretty fair, the worker's basic rights are preserved and the courts have traditionally adopted a lower threshold of justification for dismissal for probationary workers compared to longstanding employees.
The "trial" law is quite different. There is no requirement to be fair or to provide feedback on performance during the trial period. It is a period during which a worker has no right to fair treatment.
We were told when it was introduced that the law was necessary to allow those on the margins of society, such as those over-represented in unemployment figures like young adults, Maori and Pacifica workers, to have a chance of getting a job.
But more than a year's experience of the "trial period" law shows it is being abused.
For example, 17-year-old Florence Cohen was given a dismissal letter five minutes before she was due to end her shift on the final day of her 90-day probation period at a stationers near Wellington.
She has no right to challenge her dismissal and her employer is not required to give an explanation why. For Florence, this wasn't a work trial. It was a dog trial.
There has been no evidence produced whatsoever that the "trial" law has produced a single extra job. That is, a job that would otherwise not have been in existence were it not for the law.
In fact the evidence is the opposite. If the existing law was in fact creating new jobs then we would expect to see, even in a period of sustained high unemployment, marginalised groups in the labour market not being as badly affected.
The latest unemployment figures from March 2010 show Maori unemployment was 14.2 per cent compared to 9.6 per cent in February 2009. Pacifica unemployment was 14.4 per cent compared to 7.8 per cent, European/Pakeha unemployment was 4.4 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent and youth unemployment (15-19-year-olds) was 25.2 per cent compared to 14.3 per cent.
Reports released in the last few days by the Government and by the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association show that the law is being used to fill jobs that have always been there.
Even putting aside the high probability of self-interest in the claims by some employers interviewed for these reports that the law was necessary in order for them to employ anyone, not a single employer was able to show that they "created" a new job (that is, added to their workforce) because of the law.
It is simply not possible to say such a law change leads to new jobs, nor that it gives chances to those who find it difficult to get a job.
The underlying sentiment of this law, and the move to extend it, is that workers cannot be trusted.
Workers now need to prove themselves before they are worthy of a job.
Because after all, so the apparent belief goes, workers just want a job so they can slack around. Never mind their sense of pride and self-worth.
The same sentiment underpins the new requirement to provide a doctor's certificate after one day's sick leave.
If a worker takes a sick day they can't be trusted to be honest about the reason for it. The cuddly nanny state has given way to school ma'am finger-wagging.
Such a measure is impractical. There are many occasions when we know we are unfit to work but not so sick we need to go to the doctor.
And if there is a problem with repeated absenteeism, the employer has all the powers in law to deal with it properly and sensibly, as indeed most employers do right now.
Our laws should reflect community expectations of standards of behaviour. And when it comes to work, the least we should expect is that every worker - young and old, full-time and part-time, union and non-union - should be treated with basic decency.
It's what managers are paid to do. It's not too much to ask.
Andrew Little is national secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) representing 50,000 workers across 11 industry sectors.