A proposed new law on partial strikes could undermine tertiary education employees who are seeking fairer pay and working conditions, says TEU national president Lesley Francey.
The government’s labour minister Simon Bridges has tabled a slate of amendments to the Employment Relations Act, including proposing a new law that would allow employers to deduct 10 percent from workers’ pay, regardless of the length or magnitude of their industrial action.
Lesley Francey says most tertiary education staff are reluctant to undertake a full strike, except as a last measure, because they realise that students are often caught in the middle of industrial disputes.
“Like all union members TEU members would always prefer to resolve an issue through negotiations” said Lesley Francey. “But where an employer is intractable we sometimes need to take strike action. This can include full strike, but more often tertiary education staff take other actions such as a partial strike (such as for two hours or half a day), work to rule, or other actions, such as withholding marks or PBRF documentation.”
“This new law would allow employers to tell all union members that they intend to reduce their pay. The employer’s notice must specify the amount that will be deducted. The salary deducted will be based on a calculation by the employer of ‘how much time the employee (or employees) would have spent performing the work on the day of the strike.’ Or the employer may simply choose to dock the employees’ pay by 10 percent, regardless of how much time is actually lost.”
Lesley Francey says that employers could use such a law to intimidate workers with threats of pay deductions that outweigh the minor impact of limited industrial action. This is could have the undesirable result of escalating to full strike rather than targeted actions.
You can read more at TEU’s briefing on the Employment Relations Act Amendment Bill.