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HRC says Employment Relations Amendment Bill breaches rights

Human Rights Commission says Employment Relations Amendment Bill breaches human rights


CTU Media Release

6 September 2013

Human Rights Commission says Employment Relations Amendment Bill breaches human rights

The Human Rights Commission ('the HRC') has made a very strong submission on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill currently before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee. The HRC's submission demonstrates increasing official and community opposition to this legislation (and echoes concerns raised by other Government departments in the policy development process). The submission is available here: http://www.hrc.co.nz/2013/employment-bill-inconsistent-with-international-human-rights-obligations

Jeff Sissons, General Counsel at the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions- Te Kauae Kaimahi ('the CTU') says that "The Employment Relations Amendment Bill will lower wages for New Zealand workers through the undermining of collective bargaining and removal of protections for vulnerable workers. In our submission, we have noted that several the changes to collective bargaining and union rights breach New Zealand's international commitments to respect workers' rights (including rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and International Labour Organisation ('ILO') treaties)."

The HRC is the Government body that monitors New Zealand's compliance with human rights. In this case, they have emphasised the fundamental nature of rights at work and found that proposed changes to collective bargaining and union rights should be rejected as inconsistent with New Zealand's international obligations. The HRC comments that "New Zealand is falling short of international benchmarks [developed to measure Decent Work], a situation that will be exacerbated by the passing of the Bill" ( p10). The HRC also notes that in light of the fact that New Zealand's labour market is one of the most deregulated in the developed world "it is difficult to understand the justification for deregulating the New Zealand labour market even further, while at the same time breaching international obligations to protect employee's rights" (p 13).

Jeff Sissons says "It is heartening that the experts at the HRC agree with our view that these changes are a breach of New Zealand international obligations and will make things worse for workers. We think that the proposed changes will bring New Zealand into disrepute internationally as occurred in the 1990s where the ILO was sharply critical of the Employment Contracts Act 1991's brutalist approach to employment relations. The HRC has made a number of other useful suggestions in their submission and we urge the Select Committee to consider it carefully.

In our submission, the CTU is calling on the Government to scrap the changes relating to unions and collective bargaining. We have held rallies around the country attended by thousands of workers concerned by the changes and many thousands of workers have also submitted to the Select Committee. More information about the changes is available at: http://www.union.org.nz/whycutourpay.


ENDS

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