ERA amendments a mixed bag
The Employment Relations Amendment Act has the potential to put vulnerable workers in a more precarious position, says Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue. However, the commissioner says the right for all to request flexible work hours is a very welcome addition.
“Unfortunately this Act is a step backward from New Zealand’s compliance with international human rights obligations to protect worker’s rights. New Zealand regularly emerges as one of the least regulated labour markets in the world. It is difficult to understand the justification for even further deregulation,” Dr Blue said.
“The Act weakens the ability of unions to negotiate on behalf of workers. This is likely to be detrimental to the role of unions in advancing fairness and equity.
“The Act now enables employers to walk away from collective bargaining. Such a change undermines New Zealand’s longstanding commitment to the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The result could be a less collaborative and productive workplace where mutually beneficial agreements can no longer be freely negotiated, invariably impacting on economic development and prosperity.
“Further, new employees would no longer come within the provisions of the collective agreement in their first 30 days. This may result in offering new employees pay and conditions less than that contained in the collective, further undermining collective bargaining and freedom of association,” Dr Blue said.
Part 6A of the ERA was introduced to ensure continuity of work for employees in industries where restructuring is common. The amendment of part 6A removes this protection for staff in SMEs.
“Tens of thousands of employees could be affected by these proposals, comprising of workers from the cleaning sector, caretakers, hospital orderlies and laundry workers. These workers are predominantly women, many of whom are Māori, Pacific peoples and other ethnic minorities,” Dr Jackie Blue said.