Introducing real choice to workplace relations
"Worker choice will lie at the heart of Labour's employment relations legislation," Labour industrial relations spokesperson Pete Hodgson said at the party's policy launch today.
"Workers will have the right to join or not join any union, or to group together and form their own union. Pressure to join or not join a union will be illegal and unions will be required to be democratic, financially accountable to their members and independent of the employer.
"Workers will retain the right to negotiate an individual contract if that is their choice. But consistent with ILO Convention 98, Labour will actively promote collective bargaining.
"Collective agreements will be negotiated between unions and employers. Access to the agreement will be through union membership. The rationale for this is to protect workers from being picked off individually and coerced into signing contracts on a take it or leave it basis."
Mr Hodgson said Labour would require the parties to a negotiation to deal honestly with each other and to act toward each other with good faith.
"This does not imply a duty to settle. It requires that each party agrees to meet the other, to consider any proposals raised by the other, to respect each other's choice of bargaining advocate and to provide any information necessary.
"These duties will ultimately be enforced by the Employment Court, which will have the power to impose a range of remedies, including fines.
"Labour will also safeguard the right of workers to organise and bargain collectively by allowing them to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Under the Employment Contracts Act, strikes are legal for every type of contract except a multi-employer contract.
"Labour regards this as anomalous and will rectify it. Secondary or sympathy strikes will, however, remain illegal.
"Labour's industrial relations policy embodies our historic commitment as a political party to social and economic justice. For this reason we will give it a high priority in government, and will pass it into law within our first year in office.
"I look forward to doing that next year," Mr Hodgson said.