Bill would undermine fairness at work says ISEA
11 September 2013
Employment Relations Amendment Bill would undermine fairness at work says ISEA
"The proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act would undermine basic rights to fairness at work" said Matthew Fitzsimons, General Secretary of the Independent Schools Education Association (ISEA).
ISEA presented its submission to the Select Committee in Auckland today, where Mr Fitzsimons told the committee that their members share conditions of employment that confine them to the company of children and teenagers during the bulk of their working day. A morning tea break and a lunch period is the only respite for them and is vital to their health and safety and well-being at work.
“At the moment many of our members experience difficulty getting the respite they need despite most schools having good provisions for breaks and lunch period of at least 30 minutes that is accessible to the majority of staff. If the changes to the Act are successful, these breaks could become even harder to take.” said Mr Fitzsimons.
In a survey of ISEA members at the time of the Employment Relations (Rest Breaks and Meal Breaks) Amendment Bill 2009, they asked teachers who were on duty during the morning break if they were given an alternative 10 minute break to compensate. 80% of respondents said no alternate was provided. Similarly if the teacher had a duty at lunchtime 55% did not get an alternate 30-minute break for lunch.
“In spite of the difficulties teachers face in managing to take their breaks, we have not been involved in any disputes with employers since the statutory rest breaks came into force in 2008”, said Mr Fitzsimons. “Our members and school representatives made commonsense arrangements that accommodated the employer.”
“The current provisions work and should not be changed”, said Mr Fitzsimons.
ISEA is also concerned that the proposed legislation would remove the requirement for collective bargaining to be completed in good faith.
“While we maintain a very good relationship with most employers, we are concerned that the proposed legislation would make it easy for less fair employers to exploit the law in order to walk away from bargaining on a whim, without fair process. This would undermine the good faith relationship nurtured between our association and individual schools and ultimately affects the well-being of the teachers working in these schools”.
“This could particularly affect schools where a group of staff come together to ask us to negotiate a new collective agreement on their behalf, where under the new legislation a hostile employer could just walk away and refuse to engage with the staff and listen to their concerns fairly”.
"We do not need to undermine the rights of teachers, support staff and other workers by making changes to the existing legislation”, concluded Mr Fitzsimons.