Removing reinstatement as the primary remedy for unfair dismissal will be particularly harmful for academics says TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack. Ms Cormack who appeared before Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee on Tuesday said money was not an adequate compensation for many academics with specialised areas of study given the harm that unfair dismissal would cause to their careers.
Ms Cormack was presenting TEU’s submission on the government’s proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act. One of those proposed changes is to remove a clause that says that the favoured remedy for unfair dismissal is reinstatement of the fired worker to their job. Ms Cormack noted that many academics in specialised areas of study had very few places that they could seek work. A specialist academic in agricultural sciences, for instance, cannot simply take the money and go onto another job, as there may only be one or two such jobs in the entire country. Even if there is work available in their field it could be in an entirely different part of the country, which would mean leaving friends and relocating their family.
Ms Cormack cited previous employment disputes where academics had been reinstated after wrongfully being dismissed – and would not have been able to get work in their field elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile, the TEU branch at Victoria University also presented their submission on this Bill and the Holidays Act Bill to the Select Committee. Victoria University has earlier agreed during bargaining with TEU members to future-proof employees against the proposed legislation by forbidding fire-at-will 90 day trial periods, and enabling union officials easy access to the workplace as allowed for under current law. TEU’s Victoria University branch submitted that while workers would be affected by the loss of basic employment rights that the bill proposed, those in less organised, low-paying jobs would be most unfairly affected.