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International attention on NZ’s removal of employment rights

15 August 2013

International attention on National’s removal of employment rights

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) is visiting New Zealand tomorrow to raise her concerns at the government’s latest employment law changes, and speak about the global challenges facing workers.

Sharan Burrow says “the objective of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill appears to be a deliberate and unwarranted weakening of bargaining strength for workers along with a consequential reduction in the incidence and coverage of collective bargaining. This will result in lower wages and a weaker economy for New Zealand.”

“The New Zealand Government has binding obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the ILO Constitution, the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms at Work; and ILO Convention No. 98 on Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. All of these instruments say the same: New Zealand must uphold and promote the rights of workers to bargain collectively and to take strike action in support of these rights.”

“Yet, measures in the Bill appear to reintroduce measures specifically criticised by the Committee on Freedom of Association in the past such as, effectively removing the right of workers for multi-employer collective agreements through an opt-out provision. The weakening of the obligation to promote collective bargaining and the placement of obstacles in the path of workers wishing to take industrial action are also policy choices that were strongly criticised by the Committee.”

“We urge the New Zealand Government to reconsider measures that will damage workers’ rights to effective collective bargaining. They are a breach of New Zealand’s international commitments. They do not make economic sense.” Ms Burrow has made a submission on the Bill.

Ms Burrows is an expert on the impact on the world’s workers of both austerity measures being undertaken across the globe and the impact on inequality of the world wide attacks on collective bargaining.

“Both these policy lines have had dire impacts for workers and poor outcomes for economies. The contrast is clear between the countries where the Government has stimulated their economies during the downturn and those that have fed the downturn by cutting Government spending. The emperor has no clothes – those with austerity measure including those forced upon them by international organisations have seen massive loss of employment, huge shifts of wealth and those that caused the financial crisis continuing on in an unaccountable manner.”

“Countries that have used the power of the Government to act counter-cyclically and make long term investments in areas like education and infrastructure have much better results. This is now becoming much more widely accepted but the damage has been done to too many families.”

“There are now 200 million unemployed people globally – this is the highest ever recorded level. And 5.3 million more people are expected to lose their jobs this year. New Zealand is not experiencing a jobs lead recovery, has massive growing inequality and it needs to consider the long term impact on the next generation of this type of continuing policy approach.” Ms Burrows said.

“Strengthening collective bargaining to reduce the gap between productivity and profit and ensure working families have the capacity to shore up local business. This is the way to a strong economy and prosperous country. A society where we can close the divides that have opened up is what we should be aiming for, not one that encourages low wages and removal of rights.”

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is the global voice of the world’s working people. The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 315 national affiliates.

Sharan is deeply involved in international dimensions of unemployment, workers’ rights, and international organisations like the ILO and G20. The ITUC is leading the campaign to recast the vote for the Qatar Football World Cup because of the human rights abuses in that country.


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