June 6, 2006
Grievance cases last resort for workers
Personal grievance provisions are a valuable protection for workers who are being treated unfairly, not a “gravy-train” for slack workers wanting to try it on with the boss, says the country’s largest union.
“Going to court against the boss is one of the most stressful things that can happen to a worker,” said EPMU national secretary Andrew Little.
“Workers who have been sacked or treated badly in some way usually feel pretty battered and bruised, and you’ve got to be gutsy to go through with a case.”
Mr Little said that he took exception to a press release headed “Grievance Gravy Train Picking Up Speed” issued by the Employers and Manufacturer’ Association (Northern) today, in which it was suggested that the number of personal grievance cases was up because of complicated employment procedures and growing numbers of workers wanting to “trip up” their bosses.
“While it’s true that there are some unscrupulous private advocates out there who will take on a case just to see what happens, that doesn’t mean that all workers should be denied the basic right of fair treatment at work.
“It is our experience that for the vast majority of workers involved in personal grievance cases, going to court is the last thing they want,” he said.
The latest World Bank survey showed that New Zealand had one of the most flexible labour markets in the world, and the country’s real problem was that some employers were simply bad managers, Mr Little said.
“Of course you can get rid of a worker who is really failing to perform, but you have to be fair about it,” he said.
“You have to make sure that the worker knows what’s required of him or her, that you give lots of feedback and encouragement, and that you give the worker a decent shot at reaching the benchmark.
“It’s only fair, and most people know that. To give employers the power to dismiss workers without a fair hearing would be grossly unjust, but that is what some employer groups are advocating.”
The EPMU is leading a campaign against the National Party’s Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill, which, if passed, will allow employers to impose a 90-day period at the start of a new job during which workers will have no employment protection, including access to the personal grievance process.