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Employment Relations Bill - NZ First Concerns

Employment Relations Bill New Zealand First Concerns

Clause 3 & 4
Concerns about application and the fact that the employer/employee relationship is given such a low standing.

Clause 5
The definition of ‘working day’ needs to be clearly defined.

Clause 5 and 6 - Contractors
The effect of these clauses is to create a situation where many contractors would be deemed to be employees, thus requiring employers to take on additional costly obligations in respect of employees.

Clause 13
Gives union monopoly rights over collective contracts.

Clause 22 – Union Access to Work Places
Union access should be restricted to situations where an employee has given the union bargaining or representation authority, and has the permission of the employer which will not be unreasonably withheld.

Clause 33 – Communications
In a sound industrial relations environment it is essential that employers and employees communicate freely and directly. A sub-clause in 33 prohibits this.

Clause 33 –Confidentiality of Information
It is unfair and could lead to disastrous results in a competitive environment to require companies to provide sensitive information to unions and thereby competitors.

Clause 37 – Committee to Recommend Codes of Good Faith
There is no specific provision providing for small business to be represented on this committee.

Clause 40 – Minister may approve own Code of Good Faith
This gives the Minister the right and the ability to override the committee’s determination of the Code of Good Faith.

Clause 49 – Initiate Bargaining
This clause gives the right for unions to initiate bargaining 2o days earlier than an employer may.

Clause 54 – Multi-Employer Bargaining
The clause could give the right to a few union members to force a company to have to be involved in a collective agreement. All employees should be balloted.

Clause 61 – Collective Agreements
This clause requires a union to be signatory to a collective, cementing in the union monopoly over such. Should provide for employee’s representatives to sign.

Clause 64 – Enforcement of Collective Agreements
Clause gives rights to union to enforce a collective agreement that has expired for a year whilst the employer cannot.

Clause 66 – Continuity of Employment
This clause is draconian and could leave a company in a position to pay employees additionally for up to twelve months in the event of closure or redundancy. The compliance costs are likely to be huge. It is a major disincentive to employing more people.

Clause 70 – Employee Who Resigns From Union But Not As Employee
This punishes individuals who resign from a union.

Clause 71 – New Employees
Placing the obligation on the employer to give notice to new employees of the collective agreement and all the detail as per clause 71(3) is increasing an employer’s compliance costs and obligations whilst distorting the employee’s freedom to choose between collective representation and individual negotiation. Also by dictating that an individual’s contract cannot be inconsistent with the collective means that an employer cannot negotiate an individual contract appropriate to their individual circumstances. This is too prescriptive and stifling on businesses, especially seven day a week operations. It also applies to part-time and casual employees which makes it extremely unworkable.

Clauses 75 & 76 – Terms and Conditions of Employees
Prohibits non-union employees having a collective contract.

Clause 81 – Fixed Term Contracts
This clause severely limits the ability of employees to arrange fixed term contracts. There are often sound reasons for fixed term contracts and, provided they can be mutually agreed between employer and employee, should be an acceptable employment agreement.

Clause 83 – Unfair Bargaining for Individual Contracts
This clause, as worded, appears to open the door for all sorts of personal grievance claims under the guise of diminished capacity.

Clause 85 – Employment Relations Education Leave
The obligation to provide paid union education leave is a real cost to small employers and a further disincentive for increasing staff numbers.

Clause 88-96 – Employment Relations Education Leave
The generous entitlements proposed create a major additional cost for employers and are especially severe on small businesses. Further, there is no specific provision for employers having any input.

Part 8 – Clauses 97-111 – Strikes and Lockouts
Under these clauses employees are allowed to strike for a collective agreement, to obtain a multi-employer collective contract, and on the grounds of safety and health.

It prohibits an employer from using replacement labour during a strike but does not prohibit striking workers taking up other employment. This has the potential for a few employees to, in some circumstances, hold the employer, the industry, and sometimes the country, to ransom until their demands are met.

Clause 107 – Strikes in Essential Services
Employment Court should have power to order employees back to work in circumstances if necessary for public health and safety and economic wellbeing.

Schedule 1 – Essential Services should be updated.

Clause 111 – Performance of Duties of Striking or Locked Out Employees
This clause severely restricts the ability of companies to handle strike situations. An effect will be to close businesses down with loss of employment. It is therefore contrary to Government aims to increase the level of employment.

Clause 116 – Employment Relationship Problems - Provision of Information
The requirement for all employers to give all employees at the beginning and at the end of their employment a copy of schedule 2 is extreme. It is encouraging vexatious personal grievances to be lodged when there are no grounds, by actively showing employees the meaning of doing so.

Clause 128 – Employment Relationship Problems - Extension
Extending the 90 day window for lodging a personal grievance if the employee is so traumatised by the matter or if the employer failed to give the employee schedule 2 on termination is unacceptable. 90 days is more than sufficient time to decide to lodge a grievance.

Clause 245 – Liability of Directors and Officers of a Body Corporate
This is unacceptable in that it imposes totally unreasonable personal liability responsibilities on company directors and officers.

Part 10 – Institutions – Clauses 156-232
There is significant concern about:
- compulsory mediation process;
- ability of mediators;
- mediators being employed by Labour Department;
- the establishment and the role of the Employment Relations Authority (Clauses 168-170); and
- the Powers of Authority (Clause 171).

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