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Strokes For Folks On Employ. Law Lacks Good Faith

Media statement Monday, February 2nd, 2004

'Different strokes for different folks' on employment law lacks good faith

The process for considering the 103-page Employment Relations Law Reform Bill is plainly in breach of the good faith provisions it is legislating to strengthen, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

By not allowing a reasonable timeframe for the new bill the Government is weakening public respect for the law making process, said Peter Tritt, EMA's Employment Advice Manager.

"Government is practicing different strokes for different folks when it comes to its new employment laws," Mr Tritt said.

"For example, MP's themselves were given until February 27th to comment on the Members of Parliament (Pecuniary Interests) Bill introduced on November 8th last year.

"Submissions on the Maori Fisheries Bill, which was introduced on November 21st last year, don't close until March 15th.

"Employers have been given 11 weeks since the Bill's introduction on December 4th including the main summer holiday period, to complete their submissions while coping with the introduction of the costly Holidays Act 2003 which was enacted on December 16th.

"The Employment Relations Law Reform Bill represents the most significant state intrusion into the running of workplaces since the heavily regulated 1970s and 80s.

"Furthermore it's schedule henceforward is very tight. The select committee is scheduled to report back by June 10th with the new law in force by October 4th this year.

"The progress required of dozens of other major and minor bills through the parliamentary process is far more leisurely.

"It's no wonder employers are unhappy; they are being treated as second class citizens. This is humiliating, with employer views held to be less important than those of other groups.

"It's not helped knowing Labour minister Margaret Wilson's duplicity; she has acknowledged she knows why employers will be concerned by the Bill but won't allow them the time themselves to understand its implications for them.

"Prime Minister Helen Clark's sketchy understanding of business became evident when she dismissed our earlier plea for more time as 'silly rhetoric'.

"Ms Wilson preaches good faith bargaining at home, and tri-partite consensus at ILO conferences abroad but doesn't practice it in her dealings with business. Employer input was largely ignored in the bill's drafting.

"If Ms Wilson and Ms Clark were genuine about good faith they would allow employers more time to consider how the Bill might be made to work.

"The introduction of the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act and the Holidays Act in the face of strong employer opposition simply paves the way for a future government to act in the same manner and reverse the changes.

"We need a sustainable employment relations framework that won't be subject to sea change every time the government changes."

ENDS

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