Employment Relations Amendment Act “helps restore fairness to New Zealand workplaces”

The Employment Relations Amendment Act has passed into law, Minister Iain Lees-Galloway claims it will help “lift New Zealand into a high wage, high skill economy with thriving region”, but doesn’t explain how that will happen.

Restoring balance to the workplace

The passage into law of the Employment Relations Amendment Act helps restore fairness to New Zealand workplaces and restore fundamental rights for workers, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Government is determined to lift New Zealand into a high wage, high skill economy with thriving regions. The Employment Relations Amendment Act is one piece of our plan to do this, by restoring a better workplace relations framework for New Zealand workers.

“The Act restores many of the conditions that existed during the previous Labour-led Government, at time when the economy enjoyed record-low unemployment and unprecedented economic growth.

He doesn’t mention the fact that New Zealand was heading into recession at the end of the tenure of the previous Labour-led Government.

Nor does he mention that New Zealand survived the Global Financial Crisis and the economy recovered to a state of thriving when the current Labour-led Government took over – this revival happened under the conditions that the Government has now repealed.

“The Coalition Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. This Act helps achieve that by bringing back protections for workers, especially vulnerable workers, and strengthening the role of collective bargaining.” 

The key changes under the Employment Relations Amendment Act include:

  • reinstating prescribed meal and rest breaks
  • strengthening collective bargaining and union rights
  • restoring protections for vulnerable workers, such as those in the cleaning and catering industries, regardless of the size of their employer
  • limiting 90-day trials to business with fewer than 20 employees. 

“These are fair and familiar protections that strike the right balance for employers and workers, and mainly restores worker protections which were in place as recently as 2015,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The majority of the provisions in the Act will come into force on Monday 6 May 2019. Further information on the changes will be available at www.employment.govt.nz.

NZ First moderated the changes, insisting on the 90 day trials remain for small businesses.

Newshub: 90-day trials scrapped for medium, large firms

Small businesses get to keep the trial period thanks to New Zealand First, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in January.

National called the Act “one of this Government’s biggest economic mistakes” and said it would repeal it, should it win the 2020 election.

“The cumulative impact of changes to workplace relations in this Bill will choke economic growth, further hurt business confidence, stifle job opportunities for vulnerable employees, return us to 1970s-style adversarial union activity and be bad for employees and employers,” said workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson.

“It seeks to grow trade union membership and influence, and reinforces the political, historic and financial relationships between the union movement and the NZ Labour Party.”

Unions are happy, but want more.

Council of Trade Unions: Victory for working people in New Zealand

The Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sam Huggard says that tonight’s passing of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill will be a victory for working people over an expensive lobbying campaign run by big business. “This law allows Kiwis to access their basic rights at work, to make more informed choices about their employment, and help each other get a fairer deal,” he said.

We congratulate the Coalition Government for helping working people get ahead and win some decency at work with this law. We look forward to further progress soon, including women in paid work being able to access equal pay, and Fair Pay Agreements for our vulnerable Kiwi industries.”

Tertiary Education Union:  Changes to employment law are a first step

“MPs took a step forward this week, which is welcome. However we are still a long way from the changes we need to ensure New Zealand is country that protects and enhances the right of people to come together to make their workplaces safe, rewarding, and fulfilling places to be,” Sharn Riggs, TEU national secretary said.

Decisions made by successive governments over recent decades have made it harder and harder for working people to come together to address issues like low wages, inadequate meal breaks, and a lack of protection from arbitrary dismissal within their first 90 days of employment. National in particular made it more difficult for people to access help and advice from their union.

They would obviously like more from a Labour-led government, but with NZ First having a say this may be the limit of what unions will get this term.