I've nearly been arrested twice in the past month. Both times it was after international owners of call centres told local managers to lock out their Kiwi workforce to force workers to accept employment agreements determined by accountants in another country.

One of the call centres is British-owned, the other Australian. I'm aware of only one other lockout of workers this year but it's disturbing they were all instigated by overseas corporations.

After the workers widened the dispute by barricading the doors of the employer's premises against managers, picketing managers' homes and approaching call centre clients, the standoff ended satisfactorily.

But I can't help thinking there must be a cultural difference where overseas owners mistake Kiwi politeness for weakness. These owners offer workers essentially nothing above the minimum wage then expect everyone to roll over and accept it. The normal threat is to close and go offshore.

This is supposed to terrify the workforce into submission. But, frankly, no matter what concessions workers make they'll never compete with countries like India. Unless the Act Party has its way and the minimum wage is abolished.

Call centres in New Zealand are almost all owned by Australian interests and serve the Australian market. Their unions have maintained their contracts and the going wage rate is A$22 ($27.70) an hour, twice what the Kiwi workforce is paid.

You have probably worked it out by now, that the purpose of the Kiwi call centres is to threaten the Aussie workers that their work will be shipped off to our side of the Tasman unless they agree to wage cuts.

Apparently there's also a crude attempt to pass our accents off as Australian. On some projects, Auckland workers are instructed to tell Australian interviewees that they are calling locally, they tell me.

Call centres are just the latest front for Australian ownership and control. I suppose after we lost control of our banks to them the rest of our economic autonomy would follow. New Zealand's business elite and our Government seem to think it's a grand idea to become an Australian colony. After all, they enthusiastically support getting rid of the petty rules and other pesky irritations that prevent foreign capital from taking ownership of anything they want.

Getting rid of the independent-minded head of the Commerce Commission, as well as cutting so-called bureaucrats from departments that are supposed to keep an eye on this sort of thing, will help a new era of unfettered selling-off of our heritage.

But none of this is new and most of us feel powerless to do anything about it. So we just retreat into denial or defiant ignorance about what is happening. Some may think this ownership is benign and doesn't really matter, except that billions of our dollars are shipped offshore to pay for tycoons' yachts and mansions.

And it's even more serious. Increasingly, new Australian owners sack the entire old management and appoint their own nationals into the top company roles. These appointees are almost always on short-term sojourns to test them before they are promoted back home. The measure of performance is that they are to cut costs and maximise profits.

This means cut staff, work them harder and pay them less. As they have no intention of assimilating into our society they don't particularly care about any long-term damage.

Several times I've had Australian managers tell me they can't believe how passive Kiwi workers are and that in their country their workers wouldn't put up with such crap. Of course, workers do fight back collectively if they want to be treated respectfully. But our transtasman cousins seem to relish some sort of Aussie Rules game when it comes to industrial relations with their new acquisitions.

I had an Australian polling company claim that Kiwi call centre workers weren't employees, but were sub-contractors, so they could pay them whatever they liked.

When that ruse was exposed as a lie, they closed up shop and went home. Ironically, I had a call a couple of weeks ago from that company doing a political poll. I asked where they were calling from and they said from Auckland. I know they were calling from Melbourne but I didn't have the heart to tell the worker that. It seems our accents are interchangeable.

The Australian owners of our call centres have aggressively fought to keep their New Zealand workers de-unionised. It's because their call centres have to pay union rates that they are over here in the first place.

What annoys me most is that they employ methods they wouldn't get away with in their own country. Several times they have called the police to act as their heavies.

It amazes me that carloads of police turn up, at the same time the police hierarchy claim they don't have sufficient resources when someone is burgled or assaulted. Whenever they arrest my staff they then have to later, embarrassingly, drop their charges.

But I have been pleasantly encouraged that the hundreds of call centre workers are standing up to this intimidation. The two victories by these workers are a good message to our overseas owners. Kiwi politeness shouldn't be mistaken for weakness.