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Employment Reform Bill labeled oppressive

Employment Relations Reform Bill labeled oppressive, expensive, and anti-business

The country’s largest private sector employer is warning the Government that its Employment Relations Reform Bill is bad for business and will reduce productivity.

Progressive Enterprises has 18,500 employees. It was appearing before the Parliamentary Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee considering the legislation.

Company managing director Ted van Arkel says the proposed changes are clearly driven by the union movement.

He describes the legislation as “providing the trade union movement with an armoury of provisions focused on them increasing their presence, profile and industrial muscle.”

Mr van Arkel warns that it will be “a platform for confrontation and adversarial interaction between the parties.”

Progressive Enterprises shares the views articulated by Employment Court judges who are concerned about an imprecise definition of good faith bargaining. Mr van Arkel says the changes widen the good faith bargaining provisions “in favour of union/employee interests and they lack balance.”

On top of this he says the changes are impractical, time consuming and administratively onerous.

“The bargaining process will be drawn out over a lengthy period. Delays are expensive for business and expensive and disruptive for our customers. We will have to dedicate more resources to the process, at more cost – all because of new prescriptive steps in the process.”

Progressive Enterprises is also strenuously resistant to provisions in the legislation regarding multiple employer agreements which Mr van Arkel says will leave his company with no choice but to bargain alongside its competitors and potentially have competitive information regarding the company compromised.

“We work in a fiercely competitive marketplace and all this legislation serves to do is undermine our ability to conduct our business,” he says.

He adds, “We believe consumers are already incurring the costs of this government’s round of labour market reforms. These latest changes will add to these costs and we say we can only absorb so much.”

Progressive Enterprises challenges the Government to spell out why such extreme legislation is being forced through Parliament when its negative impact on business is so great.

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