Common courtesy and sound workplace and biosecurity safety practice would be "thrown out the window" if proposed new employment laws, that were reported back to Parliament last week, were to be adopted, according to Federated Farmers' employment spokesman Chris Lewis.

"There's been little or no fuss with current laws that enable union representatives to enter a farm, or any other workplace, to talk to workers after liaising with the owner or manager about a suitable time," Mr Lewis said.

"But under the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, union representatives can just bowl into a busy shearing or milking shed when they feel like it, with no need to give notice or seek permission. Not only is that discourteous and a recipe for friction, but it can be dangerous when staff are flat tack with machinery and animals."

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The bill also removed the 90-day trial provision for businesses employing more than 20 people, which would be a barrier to employers willing to take a punt on a job applicant with a chequered work history or limited qualifications.

"It's the access without notice or permission clauses that will really grate with farmers," he added though.

"It's a non-fix for a non-existent problem.

"Willy nilly access to farm properties, which are generally also the owning family's home, seems to be a flavour of the moment.

"Whether it's Fish & Game people taking a weekend off from running down our sector to access waterways, visitors to the High Country treating private farm land as the national estate, and now MPI inspectors not even needing a warrant or reason to search and seize, farming families' quiet enjoyment of their land appears to be up for grabs."

Teachers too

The early childhood education sector doesn't like the proposed industrial law changes either, according to National MP Nicola Willis.

Many ECE providers saw the changes are impractical and unreasonable, with the potential to compromise the care provided to children, she said.


"The proposed changes would give union representatives the right to walk into childcare services without warning or background checks. This is simply not acceptable," Ms Willis said.

"In addition to the significant disruption this would pose to parents and teachers, it seems to conflict with the intent of the Vulnerable Children's Act, which requires educators to undergo safety checks before working in an ECE service.

"The Early Childhood Council and others have raised concerns about new provisions allowing the Employment Relations Authority to require workers to be reinstated after an unjustified dismissal.

"Children's safety must be paramount. While all centres should follow appropriate dismissal process, and provide remedies where they fall short, they must have the right to say no to a worker returning to work if they believe it will put children's wellbeing at risk.

"In addition to these serious concerns for child safety, the proposed employment law changes ignore the practical realities of childcare services," she added.

"How, for example, are childcare services meant to implement prescribed timing for meal and rest breaks without compromising adult to child ratios or their ability to serve children's needs?"