November 4, 2003
ERA review a "first step"
New Zealand’s largest union today congratulated the Government on proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act which will protect some of the most vulnerable workers in society, but says it will continue campaigning over freeloaders and industry-wide bargaining.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union assistant national secretary Rosalie Webster said that provisions in the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, introduced into Parliament today, would protect workers in the most vulnerable industries from having their wages and conditions cut when businesses are contracted out or sold.
Many of the union’s members, especially those in the electrical distribution and telecommunications industries, had been affected by these practices and the union would be keen to make sure that they were covered by the provisions, she said.
The union also welcomed the bill’s clarification of many aspects of the ERA, including those requiring employers to hold real negotiations with workers on individual agreements instead of just passing on the deal negotiated by the union.
“The bill is a good start at addressing some of the problems with the ERA,” Ms Webster said.
“However, we still have very real concerns around issues of freeloading and industry bargaining.
“If this country wants to move forward we have to start thinking collectively about how to develop skills in our workforce, improve productivity, grow our industries and deliver good wages and conditions to our workers.
“The EPMU is working with some far-sighted employers to start this process, but if real progress is to be made the Government must act to encourage employers into industry-wide bargaining.”
Ms Webster said that freeloading was emerging as one of the biggest issues on the industrial landscape.
“Nothing makes workers angrier than to see their hard-won conditions passed on to non-union workers who have made no contribution to the process,” she said.
“There is no reason why individualistic interest and opportunism should be protected at the expense of the wider good. The Government should be aware that this issue is not going to go away.”
Ms Webster said that the EPMU would make submissions to the select committee considering the bill, as well as running an industrial campaign around these issues.
The bill is expected to go before a select committee in February and passed into law by October.