Employment Law Changes; A Win for the Workers

Written By: - Date published: 9:28 am, November 28th, 2018 - 40 comments
Categories: benefits, business, capitalism, class war, Economy, employment, jobs, manufacturing, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

The Employment Relations Bill passed its second reading last night. This means it is almost certain to be in law early next year.

The amended ERA will now limit the 90 day ‘Fire at Will’ provisions to businesses with fewer than 20 employees and, importantly, strengthen the right of workers’ representatives to visit workplaces.

In effect, this does away with the pro-business tinkering that the last National Government indulged in and makes it harder for bad bosses to get away with ripping off workers. The concept of Good Faith behaviour in employment relations is significantly strengthened.

The legislation, as passed, is also an object lesson in how to do coalition deals. Under National, the biggest party in Government dominated its partners and and only gave them lip service when pushing through law changes.

This Government is determined to have engaged and respected coalition partners. Which means working together to achieve consensus, something Minister Iain Lees Galloway has successfully done.

That does requires compromise and to be clear, this bill does not go as far as many in the Labour party, the labour movement and the Greens would have liked.

The CTU’s Richard Wagstaff puts it this way:

“In an MMP environment, robust law can take time to work through.We are encouraged that this Government has consulted with us and other stakeholders to date, and we expect to see further, carefully managed reforms in industrial relations in the near future.”

Marama Davidson, from the Greens, agrees:

“Employment relations have become out of balance in New Zealand and this legislation shows the government is listening and making the progressive changes that will benefit New Zealanders.”

NZ First had earlier managed to get some watering down of 90 day provisions to allow SME’s to retain the right to dismiss without reason. They have also wrangled two more changes, presumably on behalf of their owners, the Talley family.

The first change clarifies that an employer must enter into bargaining for a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, but that the new legislation does not compel them to settle an agreement. This means that bosses can be required to bargain in good faith with other employers and unions in an industry, but cannot be compelled to agree with the outcome at the table. It might take a strike or two to win the reluctant bosses over, but that’s fine by me.

The second change confirms that union representatives will be able to enter workplaces as of right, but only where union members are covered by, or bargaining for, a collective employment agreement. In all other cases, consent will be required from the employer before a union representative can enter a workplace, though it cannot be unreasonably declined. This is a sop to Talleys, who want the unfettered right to exploit workers, particularly migrants. Nosy union officials are the last thing Talleys want to see on their plants.

The changes are likely to go some way to mollifying employer groups who lobbied hard against key aspects of the Bill, which is the first of a two-part employment law reform process the government has embarked on.

NZ First leader Winston Peters claims NZ First’s contribution to the changes had been to “give small business a fair go”.

In reality, that’s self serving bollocks . The Talley’s family have strategically supported NZ First’s election campaign, rightly picking that they would be in Government, whichever major party led it. The changes NZ First have insisted on are mainly to help NZ’s worst business, not SME’s.

Those grumbles aside, the PM is correct when she says “Every aspect of our Bill is better than the current employment legislation and delivers rights and protections for workers which were stripped from them by National.”

And that really is the main point. These changes turn the tide back toward fairness at work. There will be more industrial democracy to come over the next few years, particularly if the next coalition is Labour + Greens only.

 

 

40 comments on “Employment Law Changes; A Win for the Workers”

  1. Tuppence Shrewsbury 1

    Labour being pragmatic and not just bowing down to the unions. Well done.

    The CTU office must be a dark place today.

    • In Vino 1.1

      Utter bollocks, Tuppence. No union is powerful nowadays, and nobody bows down to any of them. But the Labour Party bows down to your rich masters (as you do) and waters down the changes. Of course you approve…

  2. adam 2

    It’s a sad day when this pile of dung is celebrated as some sort of win for workers. Lets you know how far right the whole political spectrum has gone.

    I guess the trade union ticks will now have a bit more job security. So they will be happy.

    • Chris 2.1

      Yes, and if this is indicative of how low Labour values workers, let’s see how hard they shaft beneficiaries after the expert welfare working group issues its findings. Going by Labour’s current stance on employment relations they’ll probably want to extend benefit sanctions, cut main benefits and introduce work for the dole.

      • Actually, The labour led Government has bought about a quiet culture change in MSD, lifted benefits, is looking at raising the amount that can be earned before abatement and is committed to further positive welfare reform. But, hey, lets go with your version, aye?

        https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/04/welfare-overhaul-jacinda-ardern-indicates-big-changes-are-coming.html

        • Chris 2.1.1.1

          It hasn’t happened yet, and every time they’ve suggested introducing positive change in the past they’ve reneged, and instead gone on to make things worse. So let’s just rejoice in the fact Labour’s again saying they’re going to do something good, eh? Let’s just go with that.

          • te reo putake 2.1.1.1.1

            Chris, the things I mentioned above have already happened, or are about to happen. You may not like this Government, but they are definitely on task and delivering on their promises as quickly as they can.

            • Chris 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Let’s look at the things you’ve mentioned one by one:

              1. “a quiet culture change in MSD” – the AAAP have been talking about MSD’s toxic culture as late as October of this year. The fact the Privacy Commissioner has recently launched an investigation into the fraud unit’s nasty practices says a lot. Ask those who deal with MSD every day if they’ve experienced “a quiet culture change”. I think what you might be referring to was the minister’s announcement a few months ago that she expected MSD staff to let people use their toilets. In any case, while a culture change is important, what’s needed just as much if not more is legislative change that gives people a right to an adequate income.

              2. “lifted benefits” – the last time I looked at the rates they were the same as they were this April gone. Benefit rates are required by the legislation to go up according to the CPI every April. This is nothing new and if this is what you’re referring to (like you’ve done in the past) you’re again being disingenuous. If you want to look at something more indicative of an attitude towards benefit rates, why has Labour adopted the previous government’s “war on the poor” social welfare legislation rewrite Bill and leaving it pretty much unchanged? And why did it continue with the previous government’s attempt to get the High Court to say loans beneficiaries take out must be treated as income for benefit purposes? Yeah, that’s real commitment to “lifting benefits’.

              3. “is looking at raising the amount that can be earned before abatement” – they can look all they like, just as they have many, many times before, or like how they’re “looking at a UBI”. Labour’s track record tells us they talk and don’t deliver. The most recent example was agreement to get rid of the insidious penalty for sole parents who don’t name the other parent. You’d think this would’ve been an easy opportunity for Labour to show they’re not all talk and to give us confidence that it wasn’t business as usual. But no, they backflipped on that and put it in the too hard basket, or more likely the too expensive basket – better to continue to screw the poor than pay people what’s needed to help put a meal on the table. So Labour bullshits again. What a fucking surprise.

              4. “and is committed to further positive welfare reform” – see 3 above. Why should we believe anything Labour says in relation to benefits when there’s not a jot to suggest they’re not talking yet another pile of shit. I’ll believe Labour when they start doing stuff, not before. Useless pricks.

  3. Stephen D 3

    How I hope for a Labour/Green coalition in 2020. Winston on the outer. And on current, albeit internal, polling, not out of the question. Then we might get some seriously progressive legislation.

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    given union density, and ‘real politik’ of MMP, this conclusion was likely for the Bill

    it is an incremental move and nothing to be particularly proud of, but at least the employers are still whinging, as they do when the workers are permitted two dry ciabattas instead of one…

    the Labour Caucus would be lucky to have more than two members with a glimmer of a basic class analysis, so the right to strike and unfettered access provisions, are not going to happen unless Green and Labour support hopefully rises, and maybe not then without industrial support, the non fighting nature of the NZCTU is becoming an impediment to class progression given the current elevated industrial action and nationwide catchup on all manner of issues

    so not a win, a needed partial reform

  5. Alan 5

    ‘class’ – did we not get past all that many years ago? Very condescending to refer to people as a certain type of class

    • McFlock 5.1

      Nope, we don’t have a classless society.

    • Tiger Mountain 5.2

      post modernists and neo liberals have worked overtime on meth, to expunge class struggle from peoples understanding and vocabulary, but unfortunately for them it is difficult to unmake that which exists in reality…

      • Alan 5.2.1

        “Class” implies that what you are born into is all you will ever be. NZ is not like that, no matter what your circumstances at birth you can make something of yourself.
        The biggest distinction is between those that recognise this and apply their talents, and those that sit on their arses and moan about how unfair life is.

        • Tiger Mountain 5.2.1.1

          to the contrary, class is a snapshot descriptor of where people are at in relation to the rest of society at a given point, there is obviously some mobility available and possible these days regarding life trajectory–but get used to the fact that there are only so many slots for 0.1%ers and squillionaires…

          which is why the outstanding characteristic of Neo Liberal society after 30 years is a “dog eat dog” aspirational model rather than a co-operative one

        • te reo putake 5.2.1.2

          ““Class” implies that what you are born into is all you will ever be.”

          I believe that to be the case, for the most part, Alan. While there will be exceptions (John Key and Bob Jones spring to mind) the majority of us start working class and stay there.

          However, we are told that we can aspire to being ‘middle class’, which is just a bank funded illusion for the most part and not a real freedom and certainly not a distinct strata in an economically productive sense. Being petit bourgeois is just a more comfortable servitude.

          There are only two classes, Alan. Owners of the means of production, and the rest, who toil away like donkeys chasing a carrot tied to a stick. The stick may be shorter for some, but the carrot remains out of reach for all.

          • Antoine 5.2.1.2.1

            This is a weird simplistic analysis and just doesn’t hold up when you look at the great differences between the life stories of the people around you

            A.

            • In Vino 5.2.1.2.1.1

              That’s right, Antoine. We, the Intelligentsia, exist as a separate class, don’t we now?

              • Antoine

                There is something wrong with a system that lumps a surgeon, a priest, a 2 year old child, a pensioner, a person with a disability who has never been able to work, a University lecturer, a politician, a teacher, a homeless person, an artist, a fencing contractor, a student, the CEO of an SOE, a wealthy housewife and a corner dairy owner into the same social class

                A.

          • shadrach 5.2.1.2.2

            What a hopelessly inadequate analysis. Barely even that. I don’t own any means of production, but I would hardly describe my life as a ‘toil away like donkeys chasing a carrot tied to a stick’. Yet there are literally thousands of self employed contractors who do own their own ‘means of production’, some of whom may well define their lives in that way.

            I’d suggest a phone call to Dr Who. The soviet union want you back.

          • DJ Ward 5.2.1.2.3

            Buy Lotto. I don’t myself.

            You stereotyped a lot in your comment.

            Many people grow up in the middle class and fail badly becoming poor.
            Many people grow up poor and become middle class.
            Even people raised rich can become poor.

            Many of the super rich began life in poor families. They are just born with traits that enable success. Or fluke it somehow. If Bill Gates was born today there may not be anything that makes him different from everybody else. The idea that defines his success no longer needs him. Zuckerberg is the same.

            Trump is an exception to many rich families. Most start with the poor to rich story. Then the next generation maintains the wealth. The next generation the wealth is shared out and wasted by people who have never worked for anything. This is because that personality or intellect that created the wealth is so rare. Some wealth has become so enormous that no matter how incompetent the next generation is, they simply can’t spend investment profits fast enough.

            Elon Musc a great example of the self made rich once said “probability of progeny being equally excellent at capital allocation is not high.”
            That applies to all classes, all families.

            I don’t like the term class because I don’t see it in action like the Victorian era, or India. There’s lots of people with there nose pointed skywards thinking they are better than others. I personally know a few very wealthy people and you couldn’t tell what class they were by meeting them, and talking to them, the clothes they wear, the school the kids go to, the hospital room they use, the beer, or wine they drink.

          • Chris 5.2.1.2.4

            I guess there’s a modicum of truth to what you’re saying – but only if you exclude the underclass – which nobody counts anymore because they can’t see the carrot let alone think about chasing it.

            • te reo putake 5.2.1.2.4.1

              The reserve army of labour, as Marx put it. A useful check on uppity workers (If you don’t like the job, there’s ten blokes desperate for work …).

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    On the subject of “compromise” I thought what former wrestling star and former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has to say on it is worth listening too (starting from 2.55 but the rest of the video is worth watching too) – “don’t be a one issue person, look at the broad perspective and be prepared to compromise, it’s what we always have to do in our lives, no one has it all their own way all the time”

    I thought it was important to hear someone saying this as too often in politics we all live in a world where we expect all or our expectations to be met.

  7. patricia bremner 7

    It is a pity they had to modify the reasonable. How ever, The direction is sound.

  8. Ed 8

    These are crumbs.
    Nothing to celebrate.
    Neoliberalism remains unchallenged.

  9. Mr Marshy 9

    And the 4% tail continues to wag the minority dog of a government. Union bosses will be somewhat miffed at his amendments

  10. Darien Fenton 10

    Yep this isn’t perfect ; so tell me how else do we capture the hearts and minds of working people? Because from where I sit, many of those workers are just pleased to get a cuppa under this new law. So what do we do? IMHO we use the tools provided in new laws to organise that helped us win in the past. Yep thats called organising. Don’t wait for those workers to join unions because the laws say they can, reach out to everyone in communities, meet them in their homes, their clubs and pubs Look back to how it started ; friends and neighbours who were being shafted. And most of all : stop moaning ; And organise.

    • gsays 10.1

      Hi Darien, I am on older worker in a small business in hospo. Most of the workers are young, (younger than 30) and don’t know of concepts such as time and a half, unions, negotiating.

      Front of house are largely transient, studying, or supplementing hubby’s wages.
      The kitchen crew are overworked, often in positions beyond their experience, migrants grateful for the job and keen to keep the bosses happy.

      Any suggestions for how to bring us together (organise) considering we value our time off and very rarely get to sit and discuss our work situation (unless there is a MAJOR issue that management wants addressed).

  11. RedBaronCV 11

    Well anything is better than nothing but it doesn’t feel like anywhere near enough.

    Yes there are rules but most employers basically ignore them knowing that they can get rid of anyone who complains.

    Trying to enforce employment law on a one by one individual basis is just someone painting a target on their own back. They have to pay the costs of the dispute of an uncertain outcome while the other party has access to the corporate purse and has little individual downside – financial or reputational. Every job interview will ask this type of question and make it a sackable offence if it is not answered correctly.

    Yes organisation can help – but when fake redundancies and outsourcing are the response to a lot of this – incomes become very insecure.

    There is another side to this. Lax employment law & enforcement weakens organisations. Senior managers can live through poor decisions by simply sacking the staff involved despite the failure being at a higher level. Consultation and actually hearing what people have to say is just lip service so there is no challenge or consensus around introducing better ideas. A lot a managers just restructure endlessly aas if that is a productive job.

    Businesses can go in directions their staff and customers don’t want. Take banks – they close branches in small cheap to run places when they could provide those staff with decentralised computer based work (call centre work) when on the ground traffic is lower- provide more of what customers want instead of heading towards – the “all people want to pay the costs of doing personal business online.” because the banks know whats best for them.

    I’d like to see some bolder steps – organisations over a certain size – with controls around gaming the system and secret ballots – staff elect representatives to the board and a staff based committee that reports to the board. And then reunionise

  12. Jenny 12

    Shocking that unions are still locked out of most workplaces. Dependent on the permission of an employer, (which will never be given), to be able to meet and talk with working people at their place of work.

    ……..union representatives will be able to enter workplaces as of right, but only where union members are covered by, or bargaining for, a collective employment agreement.

    How can working people especially on a greenfield site, join a union, or bargain for a collective agreement, when union representatives cannot meet with them?

    • Te Reo Putake 12.1

      This is an improvement on the current situation, Jenny. Unions have now been given the right to enter sites where they are already organised whenever they want. On other sites, they have to request access, which cannot be unreasonably denied.

    • Malcolm 12.2

      Permission has to be given Jenny. It cannot be unreasonably withheld. The law does give employers an opportunity to stall access and otherwise mess around with union reps though. It has been used by an employer I’ve dealt with in this way. This is an employer that trespassed myself and several other union activists from the premises. They could not stop us accessing the workplace under the current law though if we were going in to undertake union business.

  13. Jimmy 13

    Thats good. ILG has finally done something sensible, rather than his complete cock up of the Sroubek case.

  14. Observer Tokoroa 14

    level playing field

    As others have pointed out , the Union Movement exists to try and ensure adequate payment for workers. It is a hell of a job because the wealthy hate paying wages.

    The Capitalists such as the likes of Billy English, Nick Smith, and Paula Bennett, set out boldly to reduce workers income to the level of Poverty. Poverty is their call for New Zealanders.

    John Key’s efforts have caused a horrendous slum of Poverty not previously encountered in Aotearoa. He suns himself in the ugly torture of “the low wage worker structure” that he has built. He and National collectively is truly Evil.

    As I see it, Labour on behalf of workers must counter National by making it illegal for any money making Business to Lobby Parliament for whatever reason.

    Additionally, no money making Business may set the wages and conditions of Staff.

  15. RedBaronCV 15

    Next time a Right wing government is in power they will come for sick leave and holiday pay – removing those. Facilitating unionisation should be a main goal of the left wing employment legislation so that individuals don’t have to stick their own necks out.

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