May 4, 2006
Nats’ labour bill will ‘bog down the labour market’
The National Party’s proposed no-rights-at-work law will affect up to 300,000 people a year and will bog down the labour market, says the country’s largest union.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little told the Wellington North Rotary Club today that law amendments proposed by the National Party would apply to every person who changed jobs.
“A well-experienced and skilled maintenance technician who has long since done his apprenticeship, done some advanced trades training and done some further national qualifications framework-aligned training will be required to have the three month so-called probationary period even though his skills are well tested and certified,” Mr Little said.
“Employees in this situation face a huge risk. If they see a new job that may provide a new challenge and even better conditions than their current jobs do, they will have to take a considerable risk to their livelihoods and that of their households as they work their way through a three-month period in which they could be summarily dismissed with no recourse.
“Suddenly, the burden of mortgage and the needs of the household weigh very heavily in the absence of any protection against a capricious employer.”
Mr Little rejected claims that the bill would help the disadvantaged into jobs.
“In fact, I am surprised at the gushing tones with which many editorial writers in the past fortnight have written about how this legislation, if passed, will open up hitherto unknown opportunities for non-English speaking migrants, school dropouts, criminals and assorted other folk on the margins of society,” he said.
Probationary periods were already allowed under law, but judges had said that employers could not simply be “critical observers” but must tell workers how they are progressing, what standards they must meet and the consequences of not meeting them.
“This legislation, if passed, is likely to bog down the labour market and labour mobility. Who, after all, will be prepared to take the risk,” Mr Little said.