I wonder how many people saw this article over the weekend.
It is about the difficulties workers have getting money owed after winning employment grievance cases.
I confess that I’m an on line reader, and this article is a reminder that I must go past ‘politics’ on line and into ‘business’.
I’m not one for calling for custodial sentences. Far too many NZers are already in jail and as we know, disproportionately represented by Maori. It’s a failed system and it’s great to see Kelvin Davis tackling this in an innovative way.
But this shocked me (and not for the first time mind you).
There are areas where we need to talk a lot more about what’s happening with the crimes being committed against workers every day.
The Herald story covers several workers who won employment cases in the Employment Relations Authority, but then found out that a finding against a boss for breaching employment law and unjustifiably sacking them, was ultimately meaningless.
The employers involved, including former National MP Aaron Gilmore, have felt free to muck around with obeying the Court and allowing these workers to get their lives back.
The Herald story includes both small and large lawyers, and while MBIE says there are options available to the workers, such as seeking enforcement through a district court, or asking for a compliance order from the ERA or the Employment Court, I have to wonder if MBIE have any idea of the costs, time and angst involved?
I’m assuming none of these workers were represented by a union and let’s be honest, there’s probably a million workers who think they can rely on our employment disputes legislation if they need it, honestly believing that there will be a fair outcome.
Some of the poor buggers will have gone off to the ‘No Win No Fee’ advocates or ‘0800 sacked’ for advice. I imagine, given this is a user pays system where only a win counts, they will have been abandoned when bad employers fail to pay up.
It takes a fortune to pursue these kinds of cases especially when workers are up against well resourced companies, such as those on NZ’s rich list.
For example, even with a major union’s resources put to work, it took five years to win pay equity for aged care and support workers. And that battle went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Talleys’ AFFCO workers who were unlawfully locked out in 2015 are finally reaching a place where they might be compensated after a score of legal cases, legal manoeuvres and various appeals. Their union, the MWU, has been relentless about its support for justice, but it is ordinary meat workers union members who pay those bills too.
There is significant reform being proposed in the Family Court and maybe it’s time we looked at how our employment tribunals and courts are working too.
The fundamental objects of the Employment Relations Act haven’t changed in 17 years. Good faith, honesty and equity before the law are sound principles.
The question is how we make them real for NZ workers.