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Business Wants 25 Real Changes To ERB

Fiddling with the words of the Employment Relations Bill will not halt the crisis of confidence the Government has created, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"A clear bottom-line of 25 changes that must be made to the ERB has come forward in submissions," Mrs Shipley told a lunchtime meeting of businesspeople in Whangarei.

"National has been listening to the worries and there's a clear minimum of 25 changes to the Bill that the Government must take on board.

"To do anything less would be mere cosmetics and would not address the rapidly sliding confidence people feel about doing business in New Zealand.

"On one hand Helen is dismissing business concerns as lies that have "frightened the horses." But at the same time the Government is trying to say it will make real changes. Which is true?

"The 25 changes we've identified are a starting point for the Government to show it is serious about restoring confidence in New Zealand.

"The decline is already hurting many New Zealand families and business, with high interest rates and declining investment - which means fewer jobs for New Zealand workers.

"But the groundswell of submissions on the ERB has developed a stark bottom-line set of 25 amendments that must be made.

"Last Friday's National Business Review poll showed a 20 percent slump in confidence -- the biggest and most damaging one-month turnaround in many years.

"This week's National Bank survey will undoubtedly echo the slump," Mrs Shipley said.

Ends

Attached: The 25 changes Government must make to the ERB

Inquiries: John Goulter 04 4719 719 025 232 4303

Employment Relations Bill - 25 bottom-line amendments

1. Independent Contractors: The current provisions are too far-reaching.

Clause 154 and Clause 6 (2) must be dropped to ensure current employment arrangements are safeguarded.

2. Information Disclosure: The provisions must be constrained and limited only to bargaining. The Bill must specify the appointment of an expert third party to respond to requests for information from union officials. Provision needed to require unions to provide information about membership and financial status.

3. Choice of Representative: Reinstate Clause 11 from ECA giving employees right to ban serious criminals from acting as their bargaining agent.

4. Good Faith Bargaining: Needs to be defined in legislation to ensure consistency and to avoid Bill's current reliance on negotiated codes between workplaces.

5. Direct Communication with Staff: Remove constraints on employers talking to staff at any time.

6. Collective Agreements: Allow non-union members to negotiate enforceable collective agreements without having to join the union.

7. Continuity of Employment: Remove Clause 66. Unheard of in other jurisdictions. Redundancy provisions should be part of contract negotiations.

8. Multi-employer Bargaining: Clause 53 should be dropped unless multi-employer bargaining is agreed to between parties, as it is now.

9. Employment Relations Authority: Remove the new structure. It will promote more litigation. Retain the status quo, make the Employment Court a division of the District Court and ensure the Employment Tribunal is properly resourced.

10. Mediation Service: Must be independent of Labour Department and independent of Government influence. 11. Personal Grievances: Remove provision that reinstatement is the primary remedy. It is unworkable and impractical.

12. Other Legislation: Amend to ensure Bill is consistent with the Commerce Act and Stock Exchange listing requirements.

13. Employment Related Education Leave: Remove provision for employers to fund leave. Government should establish a central fund for unions and firms to tap into, or it should be pay for out of union levies.

14. Union Entry to Workplaces: Constrain proposed far-reaching right of access to workplace. No right of access for recruitment. Recruitment should be undertaken outside business hours.

15.Union Size: Increase minimum size of union to ten.

16. Directors' Liability: Drop Clause 245 and instead toughen up Wages Protection Act and Commerce Act. ("sweatshops" adequately covered under the ECA, Minimum Wages Act and Holidays Act)

17. Union Monopoly: Include provision for unions to be subjected to the Commerce Act.

18. Remove Prescriptive Process: The Bill is littered with inflexibility and prescription. These should be removed to allow employers, employees and unions to determine their own collective bargaining processes which are appropriate for their particular circumstances.

19. Bargaining Provisions for Collective Agreements: Current provisions open door for increased litigation and costs.

20. Individual Agreements: Remove onerous conditions on those moving from a collective to an individual agreement.

21. Strikes: Remove the prohibition on the use of employees during strikes and the constraints covering the use of outside workers during strike action.

Explicitly prohibit strike action for economic and social reasons.

22. Fixed Term Contracts: Allow fixed term contracts as provided for in the HAGG Court of Appeal decisions

23. Union Coverage: Remove potential for demarcation disputes.

24. Ballot Provisions: Tighten up the ratification and multi-employer provisions. Ensure secret ballot and that all workers affected are balloted.

25. Penalties: Specify penalties for breaches and misdemeanours under the Employment Relations Act.

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