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Employment Relations Amendment Bill (no 2)

Employment Relations Amendment Bill (no 2)

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga

If one was to look at the explanatory note to this bill, the general policy statement comes across as extremely positive.

It tells us that the purpose of the Bill is to provide more flexibility, greater choice, and ensure a balance of fairness for both employers and employees in the principal Act while improving its overall operation and efficiency.

Now when we turn to the Maori Party employment relations policy, it would appear that there is considerable room for comfort, if we were to look at our policy and this proposed bill, all things being equal.

Our policy states that we will support the right for employees to be treated fairly and with dignity and to a safe and healthy workplace.

But the key statement is – all things being equal.

And I want to refer to the comments from a submission from Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa – the Tertiary Education Union of Aotearoa.

This amendment will further turn the balance of power away from employees, in particular young and vulnerable employees, and those employed in low unionised work sites.

Basically, the bill will allow employers to dismiss employees without reason or justification, clearly contradicting the concept of ‘natural justice’ built up in New Zealand employment law over time through case law.

Ok, so let’s just look at the current situation for these young and vulnerable employees that Te Hautu Kahurangi refers to.

And then I think about the things that our membership raises with us when they talk about employment matters.

They talk about trade training and work experience – how we can support our young people into secure and sustainable employment.

They come to us with some amazing ideas – things like a skills barter system within communities. This would work something along the lines of a carpenter trades some of his or her skills for the skill of a plasterer and vica versa.

Our members call on us to reduce unemployment amongst Maori.

They ask us to fight anti-worker legislation.

But guess what - they don’t ask us to extend trial periods to all employers; they don’t ask us to specify the role and enforcement powers of Labour Inspectors.

They want us to have a mechanism in place by which we resolve employment problems more quickly, and more efficiently.

And of course we want to be more effective in restoring the confidence of all parties in various aspects of the employment relationships such as the personal grievance system.

We want to do this, so that the negative impact of these problems on workplace productivity will be reduced.

But we also want to talk about the things that really matter to us – the things that we as a party believe is critical for us to advance – and it has to be employment opportunities for our young people.

If you look at the demographic profile of our population; we know that one in four babies born are born into a tangata whenua home.

But if we look a bit further down the life cycle, we find that at the latest quarter; unemployment for Maori 15-24 year olds has risen from 26.7% to 26.8% over the year and for our Pasifika young people, it has risen from 27.9% to 29.8% over that same time.

While in comparison for all young people, there is a rate of 16.2%.

This is the key issue that confronts our members – and it is the key issues that confronts us in this Bill.

For how can we willingly – indeed how can any members willingly act in a way which we know will most likely exacerbate the fragile employment status of our most vulnerable.

We cannot support this Bill.


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