Labour concede to NZ First on employment law changes

Unions had big hopes for Labour putting through significant employment law changes, but they have been pruned by NZ First.

Newsroom:  Labour concessions secure NZ First support for employment law changes

Labour has made two key concessions to employment law reforms to secure the support of coalition partner New Zealand First.

The two crucial tweaks were announced ahead of the Employment Relations Bill returning to Parliament for its second reading today.

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”.

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 agreement”.

In all other cases, consent will be required from the employer before a union representative can enter a workplace.

NZ First leader Winston Peters first indicated his party was seeking alterations to the Bill in September when he said it was “a work in progress”. The issue was one of a number of outbreaks of friction between the coalition partners on a range of policy issues at the time. Peters today said NZ First’s contribution to the changes had been to “give small business a fair go”.

“We have looked out for small and medium-sized business to ensure that the law reflects their reality,” he said. “We heard that changes needed to be made to ensure small businesses weren’t unfairly treated under the legislation.”

So NZ First have been a moderating influence on this.

What about Green input?

The Green Party was also a signatory to the statement outlining the changes, although its contribution to the internal negotiations between the parties of government was not initially obvious.

“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,” co-leader Marama Davidson said.

A vague statement, so hard to know.  The concessions show that Labour is listening to NZ First – that’s MP in action.

Barry Soper:  Beehive raises white flag to NZ First over Workplace Relations Bill

Labour’s flagship policy of giving unions more power in the workplace has run into rough seas, with the Beehive raising the white flag to New Zealand First and sinking the unions’ Good Ship Lollipop.

This bill, debated in Parliament’s bear pit last night, now has Peters’ party written all over it from the 90-day probationary period, which now applies only to business with 20 or more workers. Of course larger businesses have HR departments which can devise inventive ways of getting rid of people anyway. Labour wanted to get rid of what the unions call the fire-at-will trials until Peters put his highly polished shoe down.

Through gritted teeth the Council of Trade Unions have had to grimace and bear the peeling back of the changes they and Labour wanted. They rightly said most employers won’t notice the changes because this country already has similar provisions in law.

They acknowledge the MMP environment can make robust law change more of a challenge but are hanging out for further reforms in the near future.

That seems unlikely while NZ First remains in the mix.

Q&A – workplace relations and employment law

Iain Lees-Galloway looks one of the Labour MPs who has managed the transition from Opposition to ministerial responsibilities in government very well. He is interviewed on Q&A this morning.

Lees-Galloway is ranked 13th in Cabinet.

A recent media release:

The Government’s draft strategy for improving the health and safety of New Zealand workers over the next 10 years has been released, with submissions now being called for, says Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway.

His responsibilities:

  • Workplace Relations and Safety
  • ACC
  • Immigration
  • Deputy Leader of the House

He has managed to keep a low profile on Immigration given Labour’s promises to significantly reduce immigration, but net migration numbers have barely moved. There is no indication this will be covered in the interview. However there’s a close relationship between employment and immigration, and there have been a number of recent reports of labour shortages in various parts of the country.

Unions currently represent about 17% of the workforce. The Government has no intention of making joining a union compulsory – Lees-Galloway says that the need for freedom of association is a key reason for this.

It’s a good interview, Lees-Galloway sounds like he knows his stuff, tries to explain rather than avoid answering, and comes across well.

He is asked about immigration numbers, and he diverts here to say he isn’t focussed on numbers but in making sure they get labour into ‘the right places’.

Pushed on getting immigration numbers down he waffles around it and eventually falls back on “getting immigration better”.