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Greens to protect workers' rights in law changes

31 August, 2004

Greens to protect workers' rights in law changes

The Green Party said today that it would support the Holidays Amendment Bill, announced today by Labour Minister Paul Swain, proceeding to the select committee, but warned that changes and assurances would need to be adopted by the Government for Green support to continue.

Green MP Sue Bradford said that the Green Party stood by the move to close the 'double penal rates' loophole but was concerned that employers' groups had exaggerated their fears of excessive use of sick leave in order to force a repeal of the legislative progress that favoured workers in recent years.

"There was certainly a need to make changes to avoid the unintended consequences of what is good legislation," said Ms Bradford, the Greens' Employment spokesperson. "The Greens look forward to further negotiations to ensure the employer concerns are addressed but that workers' rights are protected.

"We agree with the principle that workers shouldn't be able to claim time and a half plus another day's time off in lieu for calling in sick on a public holiday that they were required to work.

"However, we'll be striving to ensure that none of the amendments in the Bill would overturn the progress and achievements made by the original Holidays Act," she said.

"We consistently oppose the attempts by some employers to return New Zealand to a system that requires employees to get a doctor's certificate at their own expense even for one day off.

"It's absurd to think that workers would be forced to go to a doctor and pay around $60 just to verify that they're not feeling good and shouldn't go to work that day. The Greens are pleased that the Government's bill recognises both the cost and distress to workers that this proposal would have created."

Ms Bradford said she viewed the Select Committee process as essential for negotiating with both employee and employer groups to find a sensible way to address the concerns of both sides of the debate.

"We support the Holidays Amendment Bill going to select committee because there are serious issues that need to be discussed. We need to look what evidence exists that workers are abusing the system and make sure that employers have sound and reasonable grounds to challenge a worker's sick leave.

"We would also require the employer to pick up all the costs associated with a doctor's visit and ensure that the worker has the right to see their own doctor - not a doctor of the company's choosing," she said.

ENDS

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