Proposed new employment laws to drive down work-rights

Posted By TEU on Nov 1, 2012 |


Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 38

Proposed new employment laws announced by the government this week make it easier for employers to walk away from negotiations and harder for workers to take industrial action.  The Government also wants to remove protections for new employees who can now be offered worse terms and conditions than the collective agreement. The government expects to present the proposed new laws to Parliament before Christmas.

CTU secretary Peter Conway says diluting or removing the duty to conclude a collective agreement undermines the purpose of the Employment Relations Act “to build productive employment relationships [among other things] by promoting collective bargaining.”

The Department of Labour has also criticised this proposal in strong terms in their Regulatory Impact Statement, stating:

“this proposal may encourage poor bargaining behaviour (such as surface bargaining)… when one party has no intention of concluding an agreement and does no more than go through the motions to avoid a breach of good faith complaint… This may cause deterioration of the employment relationship and see an increase in staff turnover, particularly where there is a strong union presence and commitment to collective bargaining.  There is also a risk that fewer collective agreements will be concluded.”

Currently employers are required to offer new employees the same terms as the collective agreement that covers their work for the first 30 days of their employment. The Government proposes to remove this requirement.  In her first cabinet paper, the minister of labour Kate Wilkinson noted that removing this requirement “will enable employers to offer individual terms and conditions [to the new employee] that are less than those in the collective agreement.”

Scoop columnist Gordon Campbell says these measures are just a freebie being tossed to employers, at the cost of further social misery and income inequality.

“You have to wonder about the priorities here. Given all the social and economic problems facing New Zealand thanks to the precarious state of the economy and the job market, why is the Key government choosing to make the jobs of the people working in rest homes less secure, and even more poorly paid than they are now? What it suggests is that the centre right really doesn’t have a clue about how to grow an economy. All they do is to throw freebies to business in the form of tax breaks and regressive labour laws. Again, we’re seeing more 19th century solutions for 21st century problems from this government.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week

  1. Manawatu-Whanganui reeling from foundation studies cuts
  2. Sacked workers have right to know why
  3. Petition tells Open Poly to keep research time
  4. TEU voters pick national leaders this week

Other news

On 21 October Bahraini teacher leaders, Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salmanan were jailed for supporting calls for reform in Bahrain. Whilst in detention they have been subjected to torture and forced to sign ‘confessions’. Education International is calling for teachers around the world to increase pressure on the Bahraini authorities to respect human and trade union rights and immediately and unconditionally release Mahdi and ensure that Jalila does not serve any of her remaining sentence – Education International and LabourStart

The Australian government has enabled rushed legislation that could put researchers at a disadvantage to their US counterparts, says University of Sydney deputy vice-chancellor of research Jill Trewhella. Under the bill, researchers who share proscribed information without permission could be subject to up to ten years in prison – The Conversation

The University of Auckland has called a meeting with some of Auckland’s secondary schools which use an alternative exam system to NCEA, amid concerns too many students from those schools are unprepared for degree-level study – New Zealand Herald

The Government will provide another year of guaranteed funding to the three Canterbury tertiary education institutions, regardless of enrolment levels, as they recover from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes – tertiary education, skills and employment minister Steven Joyce

Staff at Curtin University in Perth have won an in-principle agreement to a 17 percent wage increase over four years. The in-principle agreement, which has been endorsed by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), is the first to be negotiated in any of Australia’s 37 public universities in the current round – NTEU

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