Business disappointed with ERA Bill
EMA is bitterly disappointed with the lack of heed paid to concerns business has raised in relation to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.
None of the key elements that business wanted removed have been amended, nor changed in any significant manner in the Bill, reported back to Parliament.
At least 2500 businesses actively submitted, presented to the select committee or contacted Government during the consultative process to voice their concerns and give tangible examples of how the changes would negatively impact their operations. Yet, these have not been listened to in any substantial manner and it would appear ideology has over-ridden the practical realities of operating a business.
The EMA, along with its fellow regional associations, actively lobbied and campaigned for four key areas to be modified as it believed these will not deliver to the Government’s stated aims of a high wage and high performing economy, nor help businesses to be more productive. The joint Fix The Bill campaign resulted in at least 2254 emails being sent to Government MPs seeking clarification on how the changes will help their business succeed.
The four aspects of the Bill that were particularly worrying for business were:
- Employers with 20 employees or more will lose the right to include 90-day-trial periods in employment agreements. However, findings from a nationwide survey of employers found that the 90-day trial periods were useful for businesses of all sizes, to give prospective employees a chance.
- Businesses will be forced to settle collective agreements, even if they don’t or can’t agree
- Allowing union representatives access to workplaces without permission
- Not allowing businesses a choice to opt out of a multi-employer collective agreement (MECA)
With more than 50% of New Zealand businesses employing fewer than 100 staff, the EMA is deeply worried the changes in the Bill combined with the raft of other legislation in the pipeline will unduly burden smaller operators.
Furthermore, despite rhetoric from Government that it is listening to business, this is a tangible example that ideology rather than solid public policy driving decisions and does not bode well for business going forward.
Throughout this process the EMA has been puzzled by how any of the proposed changes to the industrial relations framework will take the country forward in terms of the Government’s goal of developing a modern, nimble and high performing economy.