If you're a unionist, you'll be walking with a lighter step after the Government's employment law reforms. If unions scare the living daylights out of you, then you're probably not so keen on the changes.

To be fair, though, and I'll probably disappoint the unionist and the anti-unionist in saying this, the reforms at this stage are moderate.

The 90-day trial period, where a new worker can be dismissed without right of appeal, is only being removed for businesses that employ over 20 people. It stays for small businesses.

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Guaranteed rest and meal breaks are reinstated; being a basic human right and slavery outlawed a while back.

Union access to worksites will be improved. And low-level industrial action can be undertaken without bosses having the right to deduct pay.

Further down the road, however, the Government has signalled more significant changes, like removing the automatic passing on of collective terms and conditions to non-union workers, previously used by employers to discourage people joining the on-site union.

And there's Labour's proposed Fair Pay Agreements. The detail of how these will work is sketchy, but the idea is for the Government to in effect broker national agreements between workers and employers in particular industries.

There would be agreed wage rates, safety standards, hours worked per week, penal rates, etc., across an industry, involving multiple employers.

Business leaders don't like the sound of this at all, and are particularly worried at the prospect of nationwide strike action to achieve these agreements, which for them is the fear of all fears.

Disruptive to the economy no doubt, but feared primarily because strike action on this scale tends to work. In New Zealand's now dimly lit industrial past it's what often won better wages and conditions.

To allay these fears, the Government has said strike action to achieve Fair Pay Agreements would be illegal. Though this raises the question as to what power are workers going to have to get employers to budge, or even be party to a national agreement?

The Government is saying there will have to be arbitration - but by who? And how will the decisions of the arbitrators be enforced? We'll wait and see.

Unions and the Labour Party point to the success of the pay equity claim that led to a substantial pay increase for women in the aged care industry as an example of what's possible if unions, employers and the Government work together.

It's likely this will be where the action is first, as pay equity has real political momentum, thanks to a new wave of feminism. Good luck to employers who attempt to stand against this tide.

So we can expect the union movement to be more confident and for there to be some upward movement on wages, finally, for those at the lower end of the national pay scale.

The Labour Party will work hard to keep a lid on unions taking matters into their own hands via strike action.

The interesting thing will be what happens under a future National government if a large number of nationwide agreements are achieved. They won't be easy to dismantle without resistance.