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Employment Bill Makes Modest Progress

MEDIA RELEASE

04 December 2003

Employment Bill Makes Modest Progress

"Changes to the Employment Relations Act announced by the Government are modest but useful proposals to what’s always been a modest law," Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson said today.

Provisions in the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, introduced to Parliament today, protect the most vulnerable and lowest-paid workers from losing pay and conditions – or their jobs - when businesses are sold or work is contracted out.

The Bill also strengthens the definition of “good faith” and imposes remedies if good faith is breached, and requires that a collective agreement is reached once bargaining for a collective has begun.

“This is expected to end the practice of employers entering into bargaining over a collective agreement when they have no intention of ever reaching a settlement,” Ross Wilson said.

Unions sought progress in four key areas: real promotion of collective bargaining;
concrete and meaningful good faith provisions with stronger remedies and
penalties; an end to employers undermining collective bargaining by automatically
passing on union negotiated agreements to non-members (freeloading); and
protection of vulnerable workers in transfer situations.

“It appears that there has been a genuine attempt to address each of these
four priority areas, even if the proposed clauses fall short of what unions would have liked,” Ross Wilson said.

The CTU and affiliated unions would make submissions to the select committee and continue to argue for stronger protections for workers.

The Employment Relations Law Reform Bill amends the current law to give it teeth and make it deliver on its intended aims of promoting collective bargaining and delivering to low-paid workers, Ross Wilson said.

“When the ERA came in, employers predicted the sky will fall in. But, in fact, economic growth improved, unemployment fell, and in some cases we have seen significant improvements in good faith relationships in the labour market,” Ross Wilson said.

“The Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will build on that progress.”

ENDS

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