The Employment Relations Amendment Bill passed its second reading in Parliament this week, following which the Tertiary Education Union called on Labour and New Zealand First to commit to further changes ahead of the next election.
“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. The TEU said the ERAB would reverse some of these decisions, but reminded people that the Bill largely reinstates what we had before. As such it needs to be seen as a stepping stone towards something better.
Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said: “We accept that compromises have to be made in a coalition government. However, the governing parties could have said to those responsible for forcing this compromise ‘we understand where you’re coming from, but we’re going to make these changes because it’s the right thing to do for the people we represent.’”
Most New Zealanders work in organisations with fewer than 20 staff that will not have to comply with one of the best aspects of this Bill, namely limiting the use of 90-day trial periods. It is difficult to see the political advantage of such a compromise when so many of the people working in these smaller organisations live in the regions.
Grey added: “We need to remind politicians it was people, not business, that put them in Parliament. Ahead of the next election Labour and New Zealand First need to tell people that this Bill is just the first step on a journey towards making New Zealand a truly great place to work. This needs to be backed up by a commitment to make further changes to employment law if either or both parties form part of the next government.”