The government’s 90-day probation period legislation came into force this week but continues to face challenges to both its fairness and efficacy from unions who have dubbed it the “fire at will” law.
Most workers in the tertiary-education sector are safe from the legal consequences of the legislation, which applies only to workers in workplaces of fewer than twenty employees. However, TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs has a concern about the way the legislation may be used by employers in small private-training establishments, as well as some of the small business units appended at arm’s length to a number of universities and institutes of technology and polytechnics.
“The problem for all workers, not just those in tertiary education, is not so much the threat of being sacked after 90 days but the way it changes the relative negotiating positions of the employer and employee if the employer has the ability to sack a worker without reason,” Ms Riggs said.. “Legislation like this can, in the long run, drive down fair employment conditions and wages by reducing workers’ ability to stand up for their rights.”
The CTU has set up a freephone helpline, 0800 1 UNION, and website, www.fairness.org.nz, to give advice to all workers, not just union members, who are affected by the law. It is also threatening to name and shame employers who use the legislation to hurt workers.
CTU president Helen Kelly says “unions will not stand by and see workers treated unfairly”.
“The 90-Day Fire at Will law doesn’t make it any easier for small businesses to hire workers, it only makes it easier to fire them.”