27 Apr NZ: Employment law changes under fire
The government’s latest employment law changes are under fire from unions and opposition parties.
Labour Minister Simon Bridges has introduced the Employment Relations Amendment Bill to parliament and says the raft of changes in it will lift productivity and help businesses grow.
Labour, the Greens, the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) says they are an attack on workers’ rights that will lead to pay cuts.
Most of the changes were announced before the last election and include:
* Allowing employers to opt out of multi-employer bargaining
* Removing the 30-day rule that forces non-union members to take union terms and conditions
* Parties negotiating a collective agreement do not have to reach a conclusion – the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) can declare whether bargaining is at an end
* Businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be exempt from rules covering the transfer of employees when service providers in industries like catering or cleaning change
* Any employee will be able to ask for flexible working arrangements, not just caregivers as at present.
* Requiring the ERA to provide an oral determination at the end of a hearing, followed by a written record within three months.
“The bill proposes changes that are pragmatic and aimed at giving employers and employees more certainty, fairness and flexibility,” Mr Bridges said.
But CTU president Helen Kelly says they will make it easier for employers to cut pay and conditions.
“They will increase inequality and make it harder for working families to get by.”
EPMU national secretary Bill Newsom says the changes are “a charter for bad employers and its effect will be to lower the wages of all New Zealanders”.
Labour’s Darien Fenton says the changes are coming in at the worse possible time, when some people are holding down two or three jobs to support their families.
“The fact that it has taken a year for the legislation to be drafted demonstrates how unworkable many of its provisions are.”
The Greens say workers are much less likely to get pay rises when the changes are in law.
“National is going back to the 1990s when wage increases froze… it isn’t proposing a single change that will mean wages will increase.”
BusinessNZ says the changes will make the Employment Relations Act more efficient and improve workplace relations.