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The Employment Relations Bill and the Treaty

The Minister of Maori Affairs and the Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations have outlined government thinking on the relationship of the Treaty of Waitangi to the Employment Relations Bill.

Parekura Horomia and Margaret Wilson were responding to submissions seeking a specific Treaty commitment in the Bill.

"In legislating for fairness in workplace relations the government is exercising an Article One Treaty right," said the Ministers. "The Treaty gave the government the right to govern, and extended the protection of the law equally to Maori and other citizens of the country."

"The Employment Relations Bill extends the rights of citizens by introducing measures to protect them from injustice, exploitation and harrassment in the workplace. This benefits all New Zealanders, but is of particular benefit to Maori, many of whom work in industries where such protection is badly needed."

"The Treaty is important for the institutions created to administer the new law, such as the Mediation Service, the Employment Authority and the Employment Court. The Treaty, for example, is relevant to the appointment of mediators. All applicants have been asked about their knowledge and understanding and willingness to work within a Treaty framework. At least one person skilled in that area was on each interview panel."

"State employers, ranging from State-Owned Enterprises to Government Departments, and including hospitals, schools and universities must all operate within the Treaty framework. In using the new law to improve their employment relationships, state agencies will be also operating under their Treaty policies.

"The Employment Relations Act will promote effective and productive workplaces. Good Faith bargaining and easy access to the free, fast and fair mediation service will make implementation of Treaty matters easier in workplaces where it is relevant"

"In implementing the Act, there will be a focus on communicating with the Maori community to ensure that Codes of Good Faith take account of Maori tikanga and practices. This will assist Maori employers and employees to understand their rights and obligations under the Act.

"This government will move further than any other in recognising the Treaty in legislation where it is approriate," said the Ministers. "For example we are introducing the Treaty in new laws such as the Health and Disability Bill. This is the first time that the Treaty has been included in social policy laws.

"But the Treaty is a high-level document originally signed between those who governed two sovereign entities. It is not appropriate to introduce it into private arrangements between individuals."

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