- Date published:
1:28 pm, January 25th, 2018 - 20 comments
Categories: employment, Iain Lees-Galloway, labour, nz first, unemployment, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: 90 day bill, etu union
The Government’s changes to employment law have been announced. From the Beehive website:
The Government has taken an important step toward creating a high-performing economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages with a new Bill to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.
The Bill is designed to provide greater protections to workers, especially vulnerable workers, and strengthen the role of collective bargaining in the workplace to ensure fair wages and conditions.
“Making life better for working New Zealanders is a fundamental value for the Labour-led Government,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.
“Too many working New Zealanders are missing out on the benefits of economic growth under the current employment relations system.
“Good employment law strikes a balance between employers and workers. Under the previous Government the balance tipped away from fair working conditions for workers. We will restore that balance.
“Many of the changes in the Bill are focused on lifting wages through collective bargaining. Wages are too low for many families to afford the basics. This Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
“We will also reinstate key minimum standards and protections to employees, such as the right to prescribed meal and rest breaks and limiting the use of 90 day trial periods to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
“This legislation is the first step in the Government’s commitment to creating a highly skilled and innovative economy that provides good jobs, decent work conditions, and fair wages.
“This is the start of a progressive programme in workplace relations which includes the passing of historic Equal Pay legislation, lifting the minimum wage to $20 by 1 April 2021, and the creation of a framework for Fair Pay Agreements.
“The legislation is expected to have its first reading in early February and I encourage everyone interested in this important legislation to have their say at the select committee process,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.
Union response to the changes has been mostly positive but there is concern that the 90 day fire at will law will be amended and not repealed. From the Etu website:
E tū, the biggest private-sector union in New Zealand, is pleased with most of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill announced by the Government today.
E tū National Secretary Bill Newson says that the process is “off to a flying start”, with many improvements for working people and their unions.
Bill says the changes recognise the pressing concerns about the personal and economic cost of low wages and inequality.
“This Government has made fixing inequality a top priority. Wages are a huge factor in this, so strengthening the rights of workers and their unions is critical,” Bill says.
“We see this bill as a big leap forward towards a fair and equitable society.”
Bill says the changes restore many of the rights that were taken away by the last Government.
“We can celebrate some big wins for all workers, such as the restoration of statutory rest and meal breaks and the restoration of reinstatement as the primary remedy to unfair dismissal.”
Bill says working people will also be in a better position thanks to strengthened collective bargaining and union rights.
“Unions will have improved access to workplaces, making unions more available to their members and prospective members. It’s also great that employers will be required to pass on information about active unions – people need to know about the best vehicle for their voice in the workplace. Paid time for union delegates to represent their colleagues will be a much-deserved recognition of the important work that union delegates carry out.
“In short, what we are seeing is the reversal of much of National’s damaging industrial relations policies, along with some exciting new initiatives.”
However, E tū is disappointed that 90-day trial periods could remain for employers with 20 or fewer workers.
“There isn’t a majority in parliament in support of scrapping the 90-day ‘fire at will’ law in its entirety, which is disappointing,” Bill says.
“This is the nature of a coalition government under MMP. It’s now our task, as part of the wider labour movement, to improve this part of the bill.
“We’ll be there at select committees to explain why any ‘fire at will’ law is both unfair and unnecessary.”
It appears that retention occurred after lobbying from New Zealand First and reflects that the Government does not yet have the numbers to repeal the provision. From the Herald:
After lobbying from New Zealand First, the controversial 90-day trial will be kept, but will only be available to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
All employers will still be able to use probationary periods which, unlike 90-day trial periods, do not allow for unjustified dismissal.
It comes as small-business confidence has plunged to its lowest level in nine years. According to ANZ’s quarterly Business Micro Scope survey, 29 per cent of small businesses were more pessimistic about the year ahead, a net fall of 43 per cent from the previous survey.
This is one law that deserves a quick death rather than being retained but weakened. The explanation for it was always flimsy, because there always used to be the ability to include probationary periods in an employment contract. Allowing employers to avoid any pretence of natural justice when firing someone within the first three months of their employment was never justifiable and never produced the claimed benefits.
How this law is handled will present an interesting problem for the Government. Etu is right to say the law is both unfair and unnecessary.