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Employment Relations Bill – Another Business Cost

Employment Relations Bill – Another Cost For Business

ACT MPs Penny Webster, Gerry Eckhoff and Stephen Franks are visiting Waikato and Taranaki on April 18 & 19 holding public meetings and talking to employers and employees about the increased costs and many pitfalls of the Government’s Employment Relations Bill. Here ACT leader Richard Prebble, who is speaking in the main centres on April 17-19 on the Bill, outlines why employers and employees should take the opportunity to make a submission to the Bill before they close on May 3.

It’s time to worry. The Minister of Labour, Margaret Wilson, tried to reassure business that the new Employment Relations Bill was just about fairness, that the Bill only brings the law back from the “extreme” Employment Contracts Act. The government, she claims, has a mandate, and good employers have nothing to fear.

It’s not true! Good employers have everything to fear.

This Bill is about restoring union power in the law and there is nothing fair about a Bill that requires employers to collect the union fees.

This is a Bill that allows an ex-employee to file a wrongful dismissal case six years later - where is the balance in that? Who could, who should defend a case six years old?

But there is more. All employers, the good and the bad, have suppliers. If your supplier does 70% of his business with you, this Bill says he is your employee.

The effect on those businesses will be devastating. An owner-driver with a $400,000 rig suddenly told he is an employee, and so, he can forget about claiming expenses on his tax return.

What is fair about a law that says to a small business owner who is caught up in a strike that if he attempts to keep his business going he is breaking the law? Unions can get injunctions to stop management keeping the firm going. Under this law Ansett last year would have gone broke.

The law is a huge interference in business. New industrial inspectors are created, with powers of entry, able to issue massive spot fines. “You did not collect the union fees – naughty. Here is an instant $1,000 fine!”

The Bill takes no notice of business reality. Say a major customer goes broke and you have no work for some employees. Under this Bill you can not lay them off. So the firm goes into liquidation and the officers and directors become personally liable for the wages. Scary stuff!

The Bill is just a charter of trade union rights. All new employees must be on the trade union collective. Only unions can negotiate a collective. All employees get two paid stop work meetings a year. Union members are entitled to paid trade union leave to learn how to fight the employer.

Personal grievance cases, already averaging an outrageous 5,000 per annum, are widened to include race, marital status, religion - the test is now subjective. If you felt you were insulted – then the law says you were. The cases are harder to fight – there is no right to a hearing. Investigators, called the industrial authority, will make inquiries and then rule. Reinstatement is prescribed as the firm’s remedy.

Sacking anyone is very difficult – and sacking the union delegate is a virtual impossibility.

This Bill is radically different law from anything we have ever seen.

Good faith bargaining is legalese for industrial political correctness. You must hand over financial records and business plans to unions. It is a totalitarian code of conduct. Employees must be told of plans to contract out, re-organise or sell the firm. The Employment Court can issue injunctions if it is alleged you have not adequately consulted employees / unions. The difficulty of a merger has just multiplied.

Labour never mentioned any of this in their manifesto. The coalition has no mandate for the Bill.

ACT, through our website, has detailed analysis of the Bill and how to make a submission. Do, or it will be you that is affected!


7.30am: Breakfast meeting at the Centra Hotel, 128 Albert Street, AUCKLAND CITY (booked out)
10.00am: Waipuna Hotel, 58 Waipuna Road, MT WELLINGTON
2.30pm: North Shore Rowing Club Lounge, 2 Northcote Road (Lake end), TAKAPUNA

7.30am: Breakfast at Beehive
10.30am: Angus Inn, cnr Bloomfield Terrace and Waterloo Road, LOWER HUTT
4.00pm: Pataka Museum of Arts & Culture, cnr Parumoana & Norrie Sts, PORIRUA

10.00am: Centra Hotel, cnr High & Cashel Streets, CHRISTCHURCH
3.00pm: Equestrian Hotel, 6 Tower Road, HORNBY

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