Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Employment Bill a provocation of organized labour

Employment Relations Amendment Bill a provocation of organized labour

By Fightback Admin
29 September 2014

As National heads into its third term of Government, almost foremost on its legislative agenda will be the implementation of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which has already passed its second reading.

This Bill is no more than a thinly-veiled attack on workers, unions and minimum labour standards, and contains a number of provisions that significantly undermine the employment security of the most vulnerable members of our workforce.

The first of these is the removal of an employer’s obligation to conclude collective bargaining in good faith unless there is a genuine reason not to, instead allowing employers to declare that bargaining has reached a “stalemate” and to seek a determination from the Employment Relations Authority that the bargaining has been concluded. Even Peter Dunne, United Future MP and National Party sycophant, raised concerns that such a removal will allow employers to “go through the motions” of collective bargaining without any real intention to form an agreement. This provision discourages the formation of new collective agreements, and has a very real potential to allow employers to claw back the hard won gains fought for by unions through collective bargaining.

Secondly, the Bill removes the provision that new employees are covered by any collective agreement already negotiated for their work for the first 30 days of their employment, a provision expressly designed to give new employees fewer rights than contained in the existing collective agreement, as well as making it more difficult for new employees to understand what is being offered by that collective agreement. Over time, a situation where new employees accept lesser conditions and wages than unionised employees performing the same work incentivises employers to a “race to the bottom” in terms of the wages and conditions offered to each new employee.

Furthermore, the amendments allow employers to opt-out of multi-employer collective agreements where conditions and standards are uniform across workforces (for example DHBs or franchises), removes employees’ rights to scheduled rest and meal breaks, and imposes restrictions on the right to strike, including allowing employers the ability to deduct pay for even small industrial actions. Finally, the Bill removes protections for vulnerable workers in workplaces where the employer frequently changes hands.

Contrary to the National Party’s view that the amendments merely provide ‘clarification’ and extend flexibility, the changes are in fact an effort to claw back workers' few remaining rights. Both the Human Rights Commission Te Kahui Tika Tangata and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi have submitted that the Bill contravenes New Zealand’s international obligations to protect minimum employment standards and promote collective bargaining, putting us in a similarly embarrassing situation as when we became an international laughing stock with the passing of the Employment Contracts Act 1991.

Such a blatant disregard for international law highlights the true agenda of the recently re-elected National Party Government – union busting and the unapologetic erosion of our most basic labour rights. At a time when collective agreement coverage is at an all-time low (just 17.3% from 2005-2010), it is not merely scare-mongering to say that our Government wants to kill collective bargaining once and for all.

Pleading or appealing to National's conscience will not stop these attacks. The power of unions and communities lies in taking collective action. Strikes hit union-busting governments and employers the hardest, and wider community mobilisation can also support unions.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 


Philip Temple: Hang On A Minute, Mate
Peter Dunne quietly omits some salient facts when arguing for retention of MMP’s coat-tailing provision that allows a party to add list seats if it wins one electorate and achieves more than 1% or so of the party vote... More>>


Cheap Grace And Climate Change: Australia And COP26

It was not for everybody, but the shock advertising tactics of the Australian comedian Dan Ilic made an appropriate point. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a famed coal hugger, has vacillated about whether to even go to the climate conference in Glasgow. Having himself turned the country’s prime ministerial office into an extended advertising agency, Ilic was speaking his language... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Funeral Rites For COVID Zero
It was such a noble public health dream, even if rather hazy to begin with. Run down SARS-CoV-2. Suppress it. Crush it. Or just “flatten the curve”, which could have meant versions of all the above. This created a climate of numerical sensitivity: a few case infections here, a few cases there, would warrant immediate, sharp lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, the closure of all non-vital service outlets... More>>


Dunne Speaks: Labour's High Water Mark
If I were still a member of the Labour Party I would be feeling a little concerned after this week’s Colmar Brunton public opinion poll. Not because the poll suggested Labour is going to lose office any time soon – it did not – nor because it showed other parties doing better – they are not... More>>



Our Man In Washington: Morrison’s Tour Of Deception

It was startling and even shocking. Away from the thrust and cut of domestic politics, not to mention noisy discord within his government’s ranks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison could breathe a sign of relief. Perhaps no one would notice in Washington that Australia remains prehistoric in approaching climate change relative to its counterparts... More>>



Binoy Kampmark: Melbourne Quake: Shaken, Not Stirred

It began just after a news interview. Time: a quarter past nine. Morning of September 22, and yet to take a sip from the brewed Turkish coffee, its light thin surface foam inviting. The Australian city of Melbourne in its sixth lockdown, its residents fatigued and ravaged by regulations. Rising COVID-19 numbers, seemingly inexorable... More>>