Helen Kelly’s Column+

1. helen kelly

The worst attack on workers’ rights since the early 1990’s, says trade unions leader

By Helen Kelly
President, Trade Unions Council

The latest employment law changes by the National Government signal the most significant attack on workers’ rights since the 1990s.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2013 is nothing more than a licence for bad employers to exploit working Kiwi’s.

It weakens collective bargaining and will exclude new employees from collective coverage and make it easier for employers to pay workers less.

Employers will be able to simply refuse to settle a collective agreement, for no reason other than a preference for individual agreements.

It removes the right to a tea break.

Most vulnerable workers hit

These law changes will also mean that some of our most vulnerable workers – caretakers and cleaners, catering workers, hospital orderlies and laundry workers, who work for small businesses, will no longer have the stability and protection of being able to maintain their current wages and conditions if their contract is transferred to another company.

It will encourage rogue companies to come in and underbid good employers who offer decent wages and conditions. It is the workers who will pay for these lower bids in their wages they can ill afford to lose.

At odds with Independent recommendations

These changes are also at odds with the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety that stronger union presence, worker participation and more secure work leads to a safer workplaces.

The changes will undermine these and make our workplaces less safe.

The Government is making these changes at a time when many working families are already struggling to make ends meet, a shocking two out of five of our poor children come from families where at least one adult is in full time work, or is self-employed.

We are already seeing employers taking alarmingly harsh bargaining approaches in recent bargaining with ANZCO initiating a 65 day lockout, Affco imposing an indefinite lockout and Ports of Auckland threatening to contract out wharfies jobs during their negotiations.

This law change will encourage and sanction this kind of bargaining tactic and make it harder to settle collective agreements with decent terms and conditions.

This law will encourage taking the low road, race to the bottom business approach rather than working towards productive and safe workplaces.

Workers are standing together against these changes. We are campaigning against these changes, and for fair employment laws that encourage collective bargaining as the way to higher wages and decent conditions, not changes that unfairly advantage employers over workers at every turn.

We need a better vision for our workers, centred on living wages and a decent working life. To find out more about our campaign, or to make a submission

against these changes please see http://union.org.nz/whycutourpay












No wonder people are leaving in droves to work in Australia. The trouble here in NZ is we have the plain old true apathy at work, and many workers are like sheep, they won’t stand up for themselves, and forget the fact that if they stood united as a group rather than individuals, they would have a better chance of making progress. Times we live in at present make our jobs seem very precious, and they are just that, but it is also a time where there are lots of employers who like to take advantage of this situation. Young people, especially today, do not take into account the relevance of belonging to a union. They have no concept about unions or about how and why they were formed. Don’t get me wrong though, there are equally good employers out there too and they should be applauded for their recognition of their employees.