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Workers Have Right to be Heard in Law Reform


02 February 2004

Workers Have Right to be Heard in Employment Law Reform

The union submission to the review of the Employment Relations Act focused on protecting workers to ensure all sectors of society shared the benefits of strong economic growth, the Council of Trade Unions secretary, Carol Beaumont, said today.

The CTU, along with Business New Zealand, was invited to make submissions as part of the review of the Act. The intention of Government to review the ERA had been clearly signaled and the CTU welcomed the opportunity to make suggestions on how the Act could better meet its objectives.

“Some of our proposals were accepted, some were rejected,” Carol Beaumont says. “Naturally the CTU – the largest organisation in the country to represent the interests of workers and their families - is entitled to have a say in employment legislation.

“But far from being the architect of the Employment Law Reform Bill, as it’s been claimed, CTU officials saw the proposed new law at the same time as everyone else – on the day it was introduced into Parliament.”

Employer lobbyists have staged a hysterical reaction to the proposed changes to the labour laws, and to the CTU submission. “Some of the claims made by Business Roundtable are not just exaggeration - they are simply incorrect,” Carol Beaumont said.

Business NZ also incorrectly claimed that collective agreements undermine workers’ individual rights. The proposed changes give workers a genuine choice of a collective or an individual agreement, and workers covered by collectives can also have individual agreements about some aspects of their employment.

“For the record it was the CTU that submitted that good faith bargaining should apply to individual agreements,” she said.

“Employer lobby groups whining about the time frame for getting their submission to the select committee should focus their energies on meeting the deadline, rather than on putting out misleading media releases.”

There has been plenty of time to form a response, as the Bill is not a new direction in employment law, but is a set of amendments signaled in Labour policy before the last election.

Employer lobby groups want the return to the Employment Contracts Act, Carol Beaumont said. “Under that law, thousands of workers lost valued entitlements, and the economy suffered.

“Since the Employment Relations Act, we have seen a well-documented improvement in the economy. The Bill proposes changes to build on this improvement.”

Unions would be making submissions to the select committee, arguing for stronger protections for workers, Carol Beaumont said.


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