NATIONAL has ramped up the fight against the Government's plans to sabotage New Zealand's employment relations law. The Employment Relations Amendment Bill has been returned to the House by Select Committee.
It seeks to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000 to meet the Government's 100-day commitments on employment relations law.
We have lodged a series of changes that seek to overturn its worst provisions.
National opposes both the ideological basis of this bill and the specific legislative changes contained in it, which will destabilise the New Zealand industrial relations landscape.
The cumulative impact of the changes to workplace relations contained in this bill will place a handbrake on economic growth, further undermine business confidence, reduce job creation opportunities for vulnerable employees, create a return to 1970s-style aggressive adversarial trade union activity — and will ultimately be bad for both employees and employers.
This bill seeks to grow trade union membership and influence in the workplace. It reinforces the political, historical and financial relationships between the trade union movement and the New Zealand Labour Party.
Labour sees this bill as a key credibility test in the eyes of its allies in the trade union movement, who have kept up pressure on the Prime Minister, fearing NZ First would weaken her resolve.
Winston Peters has hinted at concessions and horse-trading on the bill, which he has called a "work in progress", despite it having been through the Cabinet process already.
National believes our employment law is worth fighting for and deserves better than compromise and horse trading. It is one of the foundations of New Zealand's growth. It allows flexible, modern workplaces that can compete in a fast-changing global economy.
In fact, a good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy. This bill does nothing to achieve that outcome and will have a negative impact on jobs, on costs and on the economy.
Over the past 10 years, New Zealand has enjoyed growth rates among the highest in the OECD, and our unemployment rates have been among the lowest. Over 10,000 jobs a month were created in the two years before the 2017 election. Since the election this number has plummeted to 4000 a month.
The bill imposes 14 inflexible rules on employers and employees that will cumulatively act as a roadblock to achieving positive and productive employment relationships. The bill will lead to lost productivity and more strikes.
It is our view that the bill will return the New Zealand industrial relations landscape to one where employees are pitted against employers and where good faith, trust and co-operation are sacrificed for purely ideologically driven political purposes.
The Government should be focused on policies that help businesses grow and create more jobs — rather than pushing through legislation which will inevitably add to business costs, hurt productivity, stifle innovation and do nothing to improve the position of workers.
A good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy. We oppose this bill and give notice that a future National-led Government will repeal these provisions so that a co-operative, good-faith based industrial relations legislative environment can be restored for the benefit of both employees and employers.
Ian McKelvie is the National MP for Rangitikei