COMMENT:

Once again, could New Zealand First be our industrial relations saviour?

The workplace relations bill has been delayed because Winston Peters, if you remember, uttered those ominous words a month or so back, that the reforms were "a work in progress".

This came at a time you may also remember when New Zealand First were flexing their coalition muscles and reminding us all that the only reason anyone is in government is because of the vagaries of MMP and them.

Advertisement

On the workplace reforming Employment Relations Amendment Bill though NZ First are the sensible part of the combination, they have a level of realism about them we can all be grateful for.

The Greens are rabid, Labour are hitched to the unions, and unions are nothing but trouble, if not dangerous.

The main bits New Zealand First seem to have been successful in watering down are the 90-day trials. They did that way back, they still exist because Winston insisted, not as fully as they once were, but at least they are not totally extinguished.

Now union access to the workplace has been watered down as well. And most importantly of all, the mad multi-party pay deals, this industry-wide return to the 1970s bit of madness the unions have got across the line with Labour are to be diluted as well.

Here's how ropey it is, under Labour's dream scenario, if you're part of an industry involved with a multi-party deal, you have no say over what you pay your workers.

As mad as that sounds, that's what Labour argue is good workplace relations, modern business, and their industrial utopia.

Now, after the Winston intervention you can get out, if you have a good reason. And in that sadly is the problem: what's a good reason? How long is a piece of string?

For me a good reason is, if I own my own business, I've worked a lifetime to build it up, I am good at what I do, my workers love working for me, and my company has an industry-wide reputation for success and quality - a good reason then would be, I don't want to.

Advertisement

Or it'll cost too much, it'll hurt my bottom line, I'll have to lay some people off, I can't expand at the rate I was, I'll lose customers because of it, I'll have to put up my prices and i don't want to.

Now if any of those reasons are acceptable then we don't have a problem. But you know full well, they won't be good reasons, so we are still in for a fight.

And here ultimately is why the Government is in the trouble it is with business, and business confidence. This is exactly the retrospective madness we all thought we'd left behind with trade union leaders such as Jim Knox, Pat Kelly, and Ken Douglas.

It is not good for employment, for growth, for income, for tax, or for the economy.

Putting an employer's fate in the hands of industry-wide deals they may or may not be able to cope with is industrial suicide. And although it's watered down New Zealand First should have held out for its abolition.

If this goes the way most of us think it will, all your speeches from Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson trying to reset the business relationship will have been worthless. And that's because business saw this coming, warned us they were worried about it, and will sadly be proven right.