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Finally a fair workplace relations policy

Labour’s employment relations policy would right many of the wrongs of the past nine years by redressing the imbalance of the Employment Contracts Act and by encouraging collective organisation and good faith bargaining.

“Particularly encouraging is Labour’s firm intention to support and promote collective bargaining including the right to strike over multi-employer contracts,” said NZEI National Secretary Joanna Beresford.

Also significant is the emphasis on bargaining in good faith and the commitment to paid leave for employees to learn about their employment rights and obligations.

The legislation proposed to replace the Employment Contracts Act, would bring New Zealand into line with key International Labour Organisation conventions, thereby restoring international respect.

The education sector will be better off under Labour’s promised post ECA package.

For example, part of the salary (supplementary grant) of principals in schools with under 300 students is currently available only to those who sign away their collective bargaining rights. Such unfair practices would cease.

Many of the problems created by removing free kindergartens from the State Sector Act in 1997 would be resolved. For example, eight kindergarten associations are trying to pressure employees to drop NZEI as a party to their contracts. This would also be illegal under Labour’s bill.

Another wrong promoted by the ECA was to allow childcare employers to refuse to bargain collectively. That would constitute a breach of the intended good faith bargaining provisions.

School support staff would also benefit by being able to join a multi-employer contract. The ECA has allowed site or individual contracts to be imposed against staff wishes.

“The package in its entirety offers a balanced approach to industrial relations and the encouragement of harmonious workplace relationships based on fairness for all parties,” Joanna Beresford said. “It is a refreshingly positive approach after almost a decade of divisiveness and one-sidedness.”


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