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Proposed Employment Bill Changes “Cosmetic”

Proposed Employment Bill Changes “Cosmetic”

Wednesday 5th Jul 2000
Richard Prebble
Media Release -- Economy

ACT Leader Richard Prebble expressed anger that government MPs were using parliamentary privilege to keep proposed changes to the Employment Relations Bill secret, while at the same time Cabinet Ministers were using media statements to create the impression the government was “listening” to concerns.

“Yesterday, National MP Katherine Rich was threatened with a breach of privilege by Labour MP Graham Kelly. He said she had revealed to her local newspaper that there were no substantive changes to the Bill. But today Michael Cullen outlined seven so-called changes without a murmur from Mr Kelly, the select committee chairman,” Mr Prebble said.

“He is prepared to bully a new young Opposition MP but has done nothing about his Minister’s actions. The ACT Party will not be silenced. The amendments proposed by Dr Cullen are largely cosmetic.

“While we haven’t seen the government’s detailed proposals, I have reason to believe that some of the changes are totally superficial and will not alter the legal effect of the Bill.

“It is our understanding that most of the proposed changes are only happening where the coalition realises what it was proposing is totally unworkable,” Mr Prebble said.

“ACT believes the government now knows that declaring all dependent contractors employees is totally unworkable, but they are still seeking to overturn the contractual situation when it suits the unions.

“We’ve always predicted that the government would do a U-turn over fixed term contracts when they realised that as it was drafted, Christine Rankin had a job for life. The ludicrous ban on communication with employees is also totally impractical given that most companies employ five people or less and putting the boss in Coventry is unworkable.

“The continuity of employment clause, which as drafted would require employers to go on paying staff even when there is no work, is so draconian that no employer would sign a collective agreement. It’s safe to predict that will be changed. But frankly I don’t believe that Cullen’s claim that the power of unions to enter non-unionised workplaces will be changed.

“ACT believes that the absurd clause which covers directors’ liability will continue to be in the Bill despite Cullen’s press statements. All he appears to be conceding is that the clause is a nonsense.

“Instead of Dr Cullen and I trading guesses on what’s in the Bill, the government should be open and transparent and present a supplementary order paper to Parliament outlining publicly all the changes they propose to this legislation. They should then send it to the select committee and allow those who have made a submission to comment on the amendments. That would be a democratic, parliamentary way of proceeding with this poorly drafted dictatorial Bill,” Mr Prebble said. ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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