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Let’s have some fairness for fired workers

Let’s have some fairness for fired workers on the seventh day of Christmas

On the ‘seventh day of Christmas’, the Green Party today revealed that workers dismissed under the 90 day law could be going without income for up to 13 weeks over Christmas because of unfair WINZ rules.

“Under the 90 trial employment legislation, workers can be fired without warning, with no reason given, and with no recourse to normal employment protections,” Green Party Work and Income spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

“As if that isn’t bad enough, the Green Party has uncovered that if someone fired under the 90 day law applies for the Unemployment Benefit, WINZ staff can prevent them from getting it for up to 13 weeks if they judge that the worker was dismissed for misconduct.

“The employee has none of the normal recourse to contest their dismissal, meaning that WINZ staff can withhold support based purely on the word of their employer,” Ms Delahunty said.

In an answer to a written question from the Green Party, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett confirmed that WINZ staff can stand someone down from receiving the unemployment benefit for up to 13 weeks if they judge that the employer has provided ‘proof’ that the employee was dismissed for misconduct.

“This casts the WINZ staff member as judge, jury, and executioner,” Ms Delahunty said.

“There is huge potential for abuse. There are no clear guidelines about what is sufficient ‘proof’ of misconduct. Potentially all it would take is a malicious phone call from an employer to WINZ alleging misconduct, and an employee could be denied access to the safety net of the welfare system for over three months.

“WINZ staff are not trained to make these judgements, nor can we have confidence – especially in light the Alternative Welfare Working Group’s recent findings about the hostile attitude of many WINZ staff – that they would make these decisions in the best interests of the dismissed worker.

“These rules are in place now. Workers and their families already reeling from unfair dismissals may be going without the essentials this Christmas because of them. And the number of people affected will skyrocket when the 90 day law comes into force for all workers in New Zealand.

“The unfair 90 day law should be scrapped, but while we have it, the safety net should be strengthened, not weakened, in recognition of the risk that more people will find themselves unexpectedly out of work without recourse to the normal protections.

“Scrapping the 90 day law and treating workers fairly are on the Greens’ Christmas wish-list of measures that would guarantee families the essentials, reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and help to build a stronger community that’s better for everyone,” Ms Delahunty said.


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