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"Humane employment legislation needed", Union Says

Media release

Embargoed until 3.20pm, Monday, 22 May 2000

"Humane employment legislation needed", union tells committee

The Service & Food Workers Union (SFWU) told the Employment & Accident Insurance Legislation Select Committee today that many employers had brutally and deliberately abused the power given to them under the Employment Contracts Act and this abuse had wrecked the hopes and dreams of thousands upon thousands of working families.

The SFWU 80-page submission outlines story after story of how employers in service and food industries set out to deny rights to workers in order to get them to submit to reductions in pay and conditions.

"Employers in our industries have routinely sacked union activists, undermined and belittled our union, denied the rights of workers to talk to union organisers and collected union resignations like scalps, parading them on notice-boards," Ms Fenton told the Committee.

"Where workers tried to organise themselves for collective bargaining, they were subjected to systematic campaigns of fear and intimidation designed to force workers into signing inferior individual contracts."

Ms Fenton said that the Employment Contracts Act had forced good employers to follow the bad. "Employers that have tried to do the right thing, that have respected the choice of workers to join a union and bargain collectively, have been penalised, because the Employment Contracts Act makes it hard for them to be competitive," she said.

"There has been real advantage to employers in exploitation", said Ms Fenton. "I find it shocking that those who continue to advocate the Employment Contracts Act can so blatantly ignore the damage that has been done to so many lives and livelihoods."

Ms Fenton noted that while the union still continues to deal with bad employer behaviour, many other employers were meeting with the union to discuss how to work positively and constructively under the Employment Relations Act.

"It is because of this approach and acceptance that we are entering a new era of more humane industrial relations that will help ensure the success of the Employment Relations Act," Ms Fenton told the Committee.

For further comment contact SFWU National Secretary, Darien Fenton on tel: 09 375 2691 (day) or 09 810 9226 (eve) or mobile 025 360 089.

Paula Taylor Publicist/Editor Private Bag 68-914 Newton Auckland 1032 Tel: 00 64 9 375 2683 ext 822 Fax: 00 64 9 375 2681

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