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Business Must Not Get Distracted By Union Threats

Business Must Not Get Distracted By Union “Threats”

With the world economy booming, business must not get distracted by the re-emergence of the “union” versus “employer” environment that the revised Employment Relations Bill locks into place.

Michael Barnett, Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, said that the changes to the Bill were “predictable points of detail which will, to some extent, encourage business.”

“But it is quite plain that the Government has delivered on the ideology that it promised ahead of the election. Unions are being positioned between employers and employees, which will make New Zealand a tougher place in which to do business and invest than it was under the Employment Contracts Act. There should be no surprise that Labour has kept to its mandate...”

“.... Business must accept that this is the best it gets in the “new” New Zealand, so let’s adapt and move on,” said Mr Barnett.

He urged employers to not rush into thinking that the return of “union power” automatically means a return to demarcation disputes and the confrontational, strike-riddled times of the 1970’s.

Most employers have moved on from running their business in a top-down authoritarian manner, in which confrontation with the unions and strikes were the norm. "The acid test now is on the unions to show that they also have moved on and can work co-operatively with employers in “good faith” and contribute constructively to team building," said Mr Barnett.

Building a “good faith” relationship is a double-sided concept. “Unions will need to demonstrate that they can take the long view and want to build a better New Zealand, and not simply milk employers for everything they have got.”

Finally, Government will need to maintain a strong monitoring watch on the performance of the economy under the new arrangements, said Mr Barnett.

If the Government is pragmatically smart and resolute in wanting to build a better New Zealand, it will set some performance benchmarks for measuring the effectiveness of the legislation, such as:

 Work stoppages and strikes;
 New jobs created and employment uptake; and,
 New investment and growth rates in the year to 30 August 2000.

If any of these benchmarks are not exceeded in the year to August 2001, then the Government should have the strength, vision and "ownership" of its mistakes and make the necessary changes to improve New Zealand's prospects.

For more information contact: Michael Barnett, Ph: (09) 309 6100 or 021 631 150


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