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Disappointing ERB Changes Only Cosmetic

1 August 2000 PR85/2000

DISAPPOINTING ERB CHANGES ONLY COSMETIC

Federated Farmers Vice President Tom Lambie has described the final form of the Employment Relations Bill reported back to the House today as bitterly disappointing, but acknowledged that small inroads have been made into the original Bill.

Mr Lambie said that, "It was great that the threat of sharemilkers and rural delivery contractors being classed as employees had ended, but I see little else to be enthused by."

The federation wanted to see the elimination of the right to strike for multi-employer agreements, which could then easily lead to national awards and nation-wide strikes.

"Basically, the Select Committee has only made changes where the original Bill was either blatantly flawed, or where the changes have no effect on the overall thrust of handing the balance of power in industrial relations to unions."

"Farmers should be concerned that if this Bill passes unchanged, a result of this new industrial relations framework for agriculture and the broader export sector will be spiraling labour costs."

"Increasing wage costs without regard for international competitiveness, or differences between individual enterprises or regions, will be immensely damaging."

"Despite the positive signs of recovery in the agricultural sector, the Government must bear in mind the very low base that agriculture and the regions are coming off. Another factor is how vulnerable the sector is to cost increases that effect our competitiveness in overseas markets," Mr Lambie said.

"Basically, New Zealanders could easily see our exports priced out of markets if wage increases are not matched by productivity growth. Flexibility in the workplace deliver productivity growth if wages are to rise sustainably."

"Now the Bill is back in Parliament, the politicians have a single window of opportunity, virtually measured in hours, to ensure that sensible changes are made to guard against the very real prospect of wage and cost erosion of our export sector's hard won efficiencies," Mr Lambie concluded.

ENDS For further information: Tom Lambie 026-113-161 Bruce Cottrill 025-426-101

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