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Gibbs ruling removes protections for workers

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Rushed law bungle: Gibbs ruling removes protections for 'vulnerable' workers

The Employment Court decision on the Gibbs vs Crest Commercial Cleaning Ltd shows the folly of the Government's 2004 employment law changes, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

"Many thousands of employees have just been disadvantaged by bad law which was railroaded through Parliament," said David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for EMA.

"As a result employees said to be 'vulnerable' have now become the least protected of any class of workers.

"The Service and Food Workers Union agrees.

"The Government majority on the Select Committee was hell bent on passing the 2004 Employment Relations Law Reform Act with no regard to whether it would work in practice.

"EMA maintained it was unworkable and badly drafted, and advised the Select Committee of this at the time of the hearings, but the Government would not listen.

"In addition many individual employers and employer groups, such as the Business Services Contractors of New Zealand, advised Labour Minister Paul Swain and other politicians in person that the law could not work.

"The Employment Court ruling is that the Select Committee recommended last minute changes to the Bill with the result that job security was removed for large groups of employees. These people now miss out as well on protections given at the same time to all other workers.

"Government's failure to listen to the knowledge and decades' long experience of many employers has resulted in a giant bungle.

"It's another example of the confusion and extra costs that poorly thought out law can bring about, similar to those from the revisions to the Holidays Act."

Technical Note:

(Refer to CRC8/05 CC10/05 Gibbs and Others v Crest Commercial Cleaning Ltd)

The original Employment Relations Law Reform Bill included protections for 'vulnerable' workers that meant a new contractor employed to provide a service (eg cleaning, laundry, catering) was required to take on the same staff as previously employed on the site.

At the last minute the Select Committee recommended a change to the law which, according to the Employment Court's ruling, removed this provision for 'second generation' contractors. For example, if a business fires its original cleaning contractor, and hires another firm to provide cleaning services, the second firm has no obligation to
employ the staff of the original cleaning company.

Furthermore, the protections introduced by the new law for other classes of workers do not apply to those defined as 'vulnerable'.


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