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Replacing the ECA

The way Ansett has locked out pilots and enticed individuals back one by one will not be possible under Alliance plans to replace the Employment Contracts Act with laws that require good faith collective bargaining.

Alliance workplace relations spokesperson Laila Harré told the Service Workers Union southern delegates conference in Dunedin the Alliance wants the Employment Contracts Act repealed because competition between employers within an industry should be between products and services, not wages and working conditions.

Using the Ansett dispute as an example, Laila Harré said competition between Ansett and Air NZ should not rely on cutting wages and conditions.'If Ansett is uncompetitive, it should be looking to other parts of its operation.

'Under the policy it won't be possible for employers to deal directly with individuals while negotiations are underway.'The principle behind collective bargaining is that employees share a common interest.

Employers will not be able to take advantage of needier staff by dealing with them behind the union's back in employment negotiations,' Laila Harré said.

The Alliance policy is distinctive because collective agreements, although negotiated and ratified by union members alone, would cover all workers doing the work covered by the agreement for employers who were party to it - whether those workers were union members or not.

'The interests of the workforce over time cannot be protected if collective agreements are limited to individuals by virtue of union membership as proposed in Labour's policy,' Laila Harré said.

Negotiations for a collective agreement could begin as soon as new laws came into force, regardless of the expiry date of existing contracts.'Whateve r agreements are in force now have not been negotiated under fair laws. In some workplaces, agreements extend for five years because employers have realised that change is inevitable and they have attempted to lock workers into employment contracts,' Laila Harré said.

Unions will be required to be democratic organisations and won't be able to claim exclusive coverage of any group of workers. Union membership will be voluntary. Industrial action in pursuit of a collective agreement will be lawful, including the right to strike for multi-employer agreements.

'The current illegality of strikes in pursuit of multi-employer agreements undermines the interest of working people. It allows employers' use of cuts to wages and conditions as a way of competing,' Laila Harré said.

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