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: ERA, Iain Lees-Galloway, labour, Unions
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.