Employment Relations and ACC Policies
Labour has restored balance to workplace relations with a series of legislative measures including the Employment Relations Act 2000, and the Holidays Act 2003.
Given the strong economic growth of recent years, and emerging skills shortages, the key challenge now is to focus on enhancing workplace productivity. Labour has already begun to support employers and employees to work together on this issue, under the new good faith employment framework. This work will continue and be enhanced under Labour.
- Restored balance to workplace relations with major reforms including the Employment Relations Act and Employment Relations Amendment Act. This has included an emphasis on good faith in dealings between employers and employees, and the promotion of collective bargaining.
- Increased the minimum wage every year for six years, to ensure that all workers receive a fair share of economic growth. The adult minimum wage is now 35 percent higher than when we first entered government in 1999- and the youth rate has risen eighty per cent.
- Introduced 12 weeks of paid parental leave in 2002 and extended it to 13 weeks last year. It will increase to 14 weeks in December 2005.
- Legislated for four weeks annual leave for all workers, effective from 1 April 2007, and clarified and improved other aspects of the Holidays Act.
- Ensured that workers who are required to work on public holidays are fairly compensated for being unable to spend the day with friends and family. Workers now receive time and a half and a day in lieu for working public holidays.
- Provided a more effective mediation service to employers and employees to help resolve employment relationship problems before they escalate. Under Labour the number of cases having to be resolved at the Employment Court has fallen from 327 in 1999/2000 to 166 in 2003/2004.
- Increased the protection available to vulnerable workers when the ownership of a business or a contract changes.
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- Strengthened workplace health and safety legislation to provide for more effective injury and illness prevention.
- Launched a national strategy to improve the health and safety of our workforce and contribute to the productivity of our workplaces.
- Established the Pay and Employment Equity taskforce and began implementing a five-year plan to address the gender pay gap in parts of the public service, and the public health and education sectors.
EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS ACT
Labour will continue to fine-tune the Employment Relations Act as necessary to deal with changes occurring in the New Zealand workplace. Three of the areas that will be addressed are:
- Amending the Act as a matter of urgency to ensure that the policy intent of the protections for vulnerable workers in relation to successor contracting, and contracting mechanisms that have the effect of avoiding the Act, are fully achieved by the legislation
- Ensuring there is greater protection for dependent contractors
- Strengthening employment rights of workers employed by temporary work agencies and labour hire companies by allowing them to be covered by the applicable collective agreement in force at the workplace in which they are temporarily employed
Labour is also aware that changes in the nature of work in New Zealand have meant most workers will have many jobs during their working life.
- Labour intends to investigate options for the protection and portability of workers entitlements to leave and superannuation as they move from one job to another
MINIMUM CODE OF EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS
Progress has been made in improving the minimum code of employment rights. Labour has continued to increase the minimum wage substantially, has made important improvements to the Holidays Act, has extended the Paid Parental Leave scheme, and has legislated to protect the position of workers affected by contracting out, changes of contractors, and sale of business.
- Continue to strengthen the minimum code of employment rights by:
o Continuing to make annual adjustments to the minimum wage
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o Continuing to pursue ratification of ILO Convention 138 on the Employment of Children to prevent the exploitation of children while not preventing employment opportunities for young people
o Providing for meal and refreshment breaks as appropriate during the working day
o Establishing a Ministerial Advisory Group to examine the adequacy of redundancy law and provision
PAID PARENTAL LEAVE
- Improve access to paid parental leave. Self-employed mothers will be eligible for paid parental leave from July 2006.
- Increase the leave entitlement for eligible parents from 13 to 14 weeks from December 2005
- Continue to review, with consideration of extension, paid parental leave provisions
Labour believes that state agencies have a responsibility to promote good employer practices not just in relation to their own employees but also to those organisations with which they contract.
- Encourage central and local government organisations to implement good employer policies including the facilitation of Multi-Employer Collective Agreements where these are initiated by sector unions
- Adopt and implement a responsible contractor policy which includes the requirement for those contracting to state agencies to be good employers
SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP AND WORKER PARTICIPATION
ensured that unions are recognised as social partners.
Labour will support the active involvement of workers and
unions in industry strategies, engagement on productivity
and skill development, and broad social and economic
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Labour recognises that a platform for a high wage, high skill economy requires continuous improvements in productivity. Labour believes that there are several key drivers of workplace productivity. In partnership with employers and unions, Labour will continue to promote the development of best-practice in respect of these drivers including leadership and management capability, workplace culture, innovation and technology, networking, how work is organised, measuring what matters and investing in people and skills.
- Labour will recognise the unique role of unions and the value of worker participation in a positive agenda on workplace productivity
HEALTH AND SAFETY
- Establish a tripartite body with representatives from business, unions and government agencies to address the strategic issues between ACC and Occupational Safety and Health
- Continue to develop and fund health and safety representatives’ training
- Move towards the ratification of ILO Convention 155, which addresses steps to prevent accidents and injury to health
- Prioritise occupational safety and health issues within the Department of Labour
- Improve the monitoring and surveillance of occupational injury and disease
- Continue to implement the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy
WORK LIFE BALANCE
Labour recognises the need for all workers to be able to balance work and other life responsibilities including family and caring responsibilities, community and personal needs and commitments.
- Develop and implement a range of responses to assist workers in balancing these responsibilities so as to both improve workplace productivity and ensure equitable and decent work
EQUAL PAY AND PAY EMPLOYMENT EQUITY
recommendations of the Pay and Employment Equity Taskforce
Labour has recognised the need to close the pay gap between
men and women in the public service, in public health and
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This pay gap exists in other parts of the economy as well
and has consequences for the standard of living of women and
their families and also for women’s lifetime earnings.
Labour will continue to develop policies to ensure that over
time these differences are addressed.
Over thirty years ago, Labour introduced an accident compensation scheme, which was a major extension of the previous workers’ compensation model. It extended coverage to all injured people, regardless of accident and regardless of fault, but on the basis that their right to sue in the Courts was removed. The “social contract” entered into at that time was real compensation and complete rehabilitation in return for the removal of the right to sue. The founding principles were:
- Community responsibility
- Comprehensive entitlement
- Complete rehabilitation
- Real compensation
- Administrative efficiency
The Labour-led Government’s Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2001 reaffirmed those principles and provided for a fair and sustainable scheme that emphasises injury prevention while minimising the economic, social and personal impact of injuries.
Labour is committed to ensuring the long-term viability of this scheme, and will not return to a system of privatised work place insurance where those who suffer injuries face difficulties with access to treatment and compensation.
- Returned ACC workplace cover to a full social insurance scheme, rejected the costly private insurance model, and refocused the system on injury prevention
- Kept ACC levies down and rebuilt a financially robust scheme. By comparison levies in overseas schemes have generally escalated
- Reintroduced lump sum payments for permanent impairment
- Improved rehabilitation, including social and vocational rehabilitation as well as treatment
- Launched partnership programmes with approved employers
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- Rewarded employers with levy discounts for good injury prevention practices
- Extended the ‘no fault’ provisions of the ACC scheme to injury that results from medical treatment
- Introduced a Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights, and improved claimant satisfaction rates
- Improved access to compensation for seasonal and casual workers and for people on parental leave.
PRIORITIES FOR LABOUR’S THIRD TERM
- Maintain ACC as a fully public social insurance scheme which focuses on injury prevention, along with fair and effective treatment and rehabilitation provisions
- Improve ACC recognition and compensation for occupational disease and extend Schedule 2 of the Act to ensure fairer cover for people who have an injury from a work-related gradual process, disease, or infection
- Review the costs for review and appeals to ensure fair access for applicants
- Extend the discounts for safe work practices to include self-employed and small businesses
- Develop a cross-agency response to counselling services for victims of traumatic events
- Continue to move further towards compliance with ILO Article 17 by lowering claimants’ treatment costs
- Continue to implement the NZ Injury Prevention Strategy with evaluation of programmes
- Review the structure of all ACC accounts
- Ensure continued stakeholder representation on the ACC Board and the Ministerial Advisory Panel and continue to help ACC improve its performance through the encouragement of tri-partite relationships on injury prevention
- Promote a collaborative approach with the Ministry of Social Development for injury prevention programmes
- Require ACC to develop treatment and rehabilitation processes, and vocational rehabilitation and training/education for injured persons who are unable to return to pre-accident employment, so that they have the best
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possible opportunity to return to secure, well paid, employment without loss of actual or potential earnings
- Review implementation of the Code of Claimants’ Rights and where appropriate strengthen sanctions for breaches
- Introduce consistent quality standards for emergency air ambulance services and develop better coordination and integration of emergency road and air ambulance services nationwide
- Continue the work of the Injury Surveillance Management Advisory Panel on collecting injury data across all Government Departments and agencies, to get consistent data on which to base injury prevention resources and programmes
- Encourage more effective union involvement in ACC partnership programmes for accredited employers to ensure the rights and concerns of workers are appropriately reflected in the programme