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Government Strips Employment Rights from Vulnerable Workers

30 October 2012

Government Strips Away Employment Rights from Most Vulnerable Workers

“The National-led Government has just stripped away the rights of New Zealand’s most vulnerable workers by removing the much-needed protections of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act,” said Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota National Secretary John Ryall today.

The Minister of Labour has announced that the provisions of Part 6A will no longer apply to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

“This is cynical and nasty action that has much more serious consequences than the Minister admits,” said John Ryall. “The reality is that the majority of employers in the industry are SMEs and this opens the door to massive exploitation of the lowest paid workers in New Zealand.”

Part 6A became law in 2006. The provision protects caretakers and cleaners, catering workers, hospital orderlies and laundry workers, giving these workers the right to retain their jobs and to be transferred to the new contractor on the same terms of employment.

John Ryall said the changes would give a competitive advantage to cowboy enterprises, which would now be able to pick up and drop workers at will to undercut competing contractors.

“This is not a change that has been sought by the legitimate, large employers in the sector, who value a stable workforce and understand the need for protections when contracts change hands,” he said. “It is the result of a one-man band campaign from Crest Clean, a company which has fought hard to resist complying with law that was put in place to prevent workers in cut-throat industries being used as pawns to drive down costs.”

John Ryall said Part 6A was not about preserving high wages.

“This is about maintaining a stable workforce in the industry and good employers understand that it is good for business. The reality for cleaners is living on wages a few cents higher than the minimum wage and conditions barely above the lowest in New Zealand,“ he said.

“Our union represents thousands of workers whose lives have been improved by the provisions of Part 6A and the protections the clause offers to otherwise vulnerable workers,” said John Ryall.


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