Disgraced Act MP John Banks is an unlikely ''working
class hero'' for leaving the Government without the numbers to
pass controversial employment law, senior doctors' union
executive director Ian Powell says.
Mr Powell was commenting on the fallout from the Employment
Relations Amendment Bill, which the Government has been
forced to abandon.
Mr Banks is resigning his Epsom seat and leaves Parliament
tomorrow, having been found guilty of filing a false
Prime Minister John Key said National was likely to make the
employment law change part of its election campaign, since it
cannot pass the Bill without Mr Banks.
Unions have fought the changes which they said removed rights
to tea breaks, undermined collective bargaining by allowing
employers to walk from talks, and reduced protection for
Mr Powell, of the Association of Salaried Medical
Specialists, said the changes would have created an
''adversarial'' employment relations environment in health.
National collective agreements would have been less likely.
These worked well in health, as boards were increasingly
linked, so it made sense for staff to share conditions around
New Zealand was hugely reliant on foreign doctors, and their
rights as new employees in an unfamiliar country would have
''It's so intriguing to see John Banks as a working class
hero,'' Mr Powell said.
Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall
was ''overjoyed'' the Government had been forced to abandon
efforts to reduce workers' rights.
He was particularly pleased Part 6A of the existing Act
covering vulnerable workers would be unchanged.
Mr Ryall said bargaining entitlements were already limited,
and the Bill worsened the situation. It favoured employers
and would put downward pressure on wages.
CrestClean managing director Grant McLauchlan, of Dunedin,
who has pushed for reform of Part 6A, which protects
vulnerable workers, was also pleased the Bill had been
dropped, as it had not addressed the main issue.
It was a ''great result'', and he hoped the next Government
had a strong mandate to make ''pragmatic and appropriate
changes'' to the ''broken'' Part 6A.
New employers were not told whether employees wanted to
transfer to their company until the day before a new contract
started, which the Bill would not have addressed. He denied
the industry was trying to lower the wages of vulnerable
''How can you pay someone cheaper - they're all on the
minimum wage [already]. The people that we take over, how can
we ever pay them less? ''The people we take over
unfortunately are the people that have been poorly managed by
their existing company.''
The Bill exempted employers with 19 or fewer employees from
Part 6A, but that only helped the ''small end of town'', Mr
Otago-Southland Employers Association managing solicitor
Diana Hudson said the changes had been a long time coming,
and it was disappointing they would not go ahead.
The law governing tea breaks was far too prescriptive, and
did not work for many employers, Ms Hudson said.
''This is not about removing entitlements - it's about making
the entitlements more flexible.''
Part 6A was difficult to work with in its present form, and
the proposed changes would have ''provided more clarity'',
University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards said
it was embarrassing for National to have to abandon part of
its legislative programme.
He did not think employment relations were set to be a big
''I just don't think it's going to be a particularly sexy
issue for Labour to campaign on.''
Likewise, National was unlikely to push the issue much in its
The changes were a nod to National's support base, rather
than a big vote winner, Dr Edwards said.
He believed the unions had exaggerated the importance of the
changes but it was their role to do so.