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Employment Bill Concerns Growing

Employment Bill Concerns Growing

Concern is growing as more businesses come to grips with what the new employment bill will bring. The tortuous language of the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill disguises the fact that employers will be forced into collective bargaining, forced to keep bargaining and forced to settle collective agreements. Employees are starting to wake up to the fact that they will be discriminated against for choosing an individual over a collective agreement. The overall result will be an industrial relations system pointing back to the 1970s and '80s - compulsory bargaining, compulsory arbitration and big collective agreements similar to the old national awards. A quick description of the Bill is on To register your concerns about the Bill contact TAKES TWO TO TANGO The Government's "Small Business Days" do not yet seem to be delivering the enhanced relationship that Government desires with the sector. The first in the series last week featured name-calling by the Small Business Minister in defending the Government's refusal to fix compliance costs that are "not on this Government's agenda". Small businesses are likely to continue to ask for lower tax, improved employment law and other changes but the Minister has signalled that these will continue to be "not on the agenda" - not exactly a good start towards an enhanced relationship. What should be on the agenda is on: <

ELECTRICITY COMMISSION = HIGH POWER PRICES The proposed operating regime for the Electricity Commission will mean higher power prices. The Commission, which formally starts operations in a fortnight, will have too much power to regulate and will not be accountable or transparent enough. The governing rules are in the Electricity & Gas Industries Bill, currently before Parliament, which gives the Commission power to regulate 53 areas of the market, even down to pricing and quantities produced, and also lets the Commission regulate over areas where it is itself a market participant. This level of central planning does nothing to address the lack of investment in new power generation - the main reason for high power prices. It also means high compliance costs and steep levies for the Commission's running costs as well as the cost of its reserve generation regime. Business NZ's

RMA AMENDMENT BILL DOESN'T MAKE SENSE Amending the Resource Management Act just for the Waitaki catchment area doesn't make sense. A 'single river' approach will only lead to further ad hoc decision making. Problems in harnessing the resources of the Waitaki River come down to the fact that NZ doesn't have a system for tradeable water rights - better to address this than tinker dangerously with the RMA. The amendment would give too much power to Ministerial appointments, could take away existing property rights and risks undermining future investment. It risks giving the perception that Meridian Energy, an SOE, is getting an unfair advantage over private generation companies. Paradoxically, it could also lead to the derailment of Meridian's Project Aqua, an important project for increasing NZ's power capability. Business NZ's submission is on <


Differential rates mean businesses end up paying half the value of all rates in NZ. The Local Government Forum represents businesses in seeking improved rating structures and more restrained spending by local bodies. The Forum's new chairman, Business NZ's Simon Carlaw, says the Forum will soon release the Forum's list of 'hot' and 'cold' councils so business ratepayers can see which councils are the big spenders - he says a large North Island council leads the list of shame...

CALLING ALL TRAINING MANAGERS Business NZ seeks to facilitate a training managers' network, with the aim of helping to improve skill development across the workforce, sharing information and providing input into policy. It will operate as an electronic network, though an initial meeting is proposed at Business NZ's office in Wellington at 10 am on Wednesday 3 March. If you would like to be involved, contact .

PITY THE PAY CLERK Payroll company Comacc is sounding a warning about the "enormous workload" posed by new Holidays Act which comes into force on 1 April. Comacc's Steve Nathan says: "Employers will have to record specific details of each leave day taken by employees and engage in complicated formulae to determine accurate pay rates. Under the old system, just noting that a day had been taken during a pay period was enough. From April 1 we have to record specific details and be able to track these details, plus calculate holiday pay on a whole new basis...and the penalties for not getting it right are significant." Contact .

NEW CUSTOMS RULE Reminder: New customs requirements for exporters come into force soon. The current practice of allowing entries to be lodged up to five days after the goods have left NZ will cease. From 1 March Customs will not allow goods to be loaded for export until an export entry has been lodged and cleared. Information on how to lodge an entry electronically is on .



* The provisional value of exports for Dec was $2,287m; the provisional value for imports was $2,806m, leaving the trade balance as a deficit of $519m. Although Dec months typically record a deficit, this was the largest for a Dec month since records began in 1960.

* In comparison with Dec 2002, the value of exports was 4.2% lower for Dec 2003, largely due to lower values for logs & sawn timber, frozen fish fillets and crude oil. The fall was partly offset by a rise in export values for beef and whole milk powder and butter.

* During the Dec 2003 year the value of exports was 8.6% less than for the Dec 2002 year, with a trade deficit of $3,413m or 12% of exports - the second largest annual deficit as a percentage of exports in the last ten years.


* Unemployment figures for Dec rose slightly, according to the Household Labour Force Survey, up 0.2 percentage points to 4.6%. Despite the increase this is still indicative of a very tight labour market. Much of the increase occurred in Auckland (+3,300), though Northland (7%) and Bay of Plenty (5.9%) still have the highest percentage of unemployed.

* Those not in the labour force increased by 6,000, causing the labour force participation rate to dip slightly to 66.5%. The number of people in full-time work continued to rise (+7,000 or 0.5% over the quarter) and those in part-time work fell 6,000.

* Numbers employed in the manufacturing sector increased by 4,200 in the Dec quarter, but fell by 10,200 over the Dec year - the biggest fall of any sector over that time. EARNINGS CONTINUE TO RISE

* Average total hourly earnings increased 0.9% to $19.83 in the Dec 2003 quarter. This follows a1.2% and 1.1% rise in the Sept and June 2003 quarters. Over the Dec year total earnings rose 3.3%.

* Earnings were up 0.7% (to reach $18.56) in the private sector and 1.6% (to reach $24.67) in the public sector.


* Departures by New Zealanders are picking up and arrivals from overseas are falling. Although overall net migration is still high, we are beginning to see a fall in net migration comparable to the strong rise over the last two years.

* While permanent and long term arrivals exceeded departures by 1,600 during Dec, this was less than in both Dec 2001 and 2002. When looking at year-on-year comparisons, there was a net gain of 34,900 for the Dec 2003 year, which was down from 38,200 during the Dec 2002 year.

* There were net inflows from China (11,300), UK (10,100), India (4,900) and Japan (2,200).

* There were net outflows to Australia (10,200), compared with 12,100 and 23,800 for the Dec 2002 and 2001 years. Statistics courtesy


* Quick Guide to the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill

* Who's the victim, Minister?

* A simple decision for Mr Swain to make

* A message from small business

* RMA amendments interventionist, ad hoc

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