While Red Alerters have been debating tax and GST this week, Carol Beaumont and I have been wading through the submissions to the Select Committee on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill and Holidays Bill.
Yesterday and today were long days with submissions from a mix of employers, unions and individual workers. What’s disappointing is how employers seem to go onto autopilot – not only supporting National Party legislation, but wanting more still.
After weeks of the Minister of Labour claiming that the 90 day trial period is “voluntary” and that “employees don’t need to have a trial period if they don’t want one” her business supporters are saying that’s not enough.
Business New Zealand, EMA, the Hospitality Association, Air NZ, the Meat Industry Association, Ports of Auckland and a whole raft of other employers are saying the 90 day trial period should be the default provision for every worker in New Zealand.
What that means is your job will be subject to the 90 day trial automatically.
Depressing. I often wonder if employers actually think, because if they did, they would know that this is not the way to productive workplaces and closing the wage gap with Australia.
However, there’s been some lighter moments. Our Chair, David Bennett is struggling with the notion of unions and their role, even although the whole basis of the Employment Relations Act is around building productive employment relationships through good faith, trust and confidence and the promotion of collective bargaining.
His boss, John Key is quite happy to recognise unions as “social partners,” to engage with them to tap into the ideas of workers to get the economy through a recession. The Government (along with Business NZ) confidently fronts up to the ILO every year and boast about NZ’s tripartite relationships – yet Mr Bennett thinks that unions are like lawyers – offering a service – and as such, should have no “special” rights.
Clearly, such old thinking is still alive and well in the National Party.
The consequence of the radical change in the early 1990s and the low levels of unionisation and collective bargaining is that New Zealand now has a thriving employment law industry with literally thousands of lawyers – all of them making good money out of employment relations.
We’ve heard from some of them on the select committee and while I have respect for their profession, quite frankly, few of them have a clue about the day to day relationships that are needed in the workplace to make it operate productively.
The Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No 2) and the Holidays Amendment Bill are a lawyer’s gold chest. I predict we’re going to see quite a few more of them in the Employment Authority and Employment Court in the coming years if these bills go ahead.