Employers unhappy at employment Bill

Kim Campbell
Kim Campbell
Employers say they are bitterly disappointed at the lack of heed paid to concerns business had raised in relation to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

EMA chief executive Kim Campbell yesterday said not any of the elements business wanted removed had been amended or changed in any significant manner in the Bill reported back to Parliament.

At least 2500 businesses actively submitted, presented to the select committee or contacted the Government during the consultative process to voice their concerns and give tangible examples of how the changes would negatively affect their operations.

Those concerns had not been listened to in any substantial manner and it would appear ideology had overridden the practical realities of operating a business, he said.

The EMA, along with other regional associations such as the Otago-Southland Employers Association, had lobbied and campaigned for four key areas to be modified.

The associations did not believe the Bill would deliver on the Government’s stated aims of a high wage and high-performing economy, plus helping businesses be more productive.

The joint "Fix the Bill" campaign resulted in at least 2254 emails being sent to Government MPs seeking clarification on how the changes would help their businesses succeed,  he said.The four aspects of the Bill particularly worrying for business were:

Employers with 20 employers or more losing the right to include 90-day trial periods in employment agreements. Findings from a national survey of employers found  90-day trial periods were used for businesses of all sizes to give prospective employees a chance.

• Businesses would be forced to settle collective agreements, even if they did not or could not agree.

• Allowing union representatives access to workplaces without permission.

• Not allowing businesses to opt out of a multi-employer collective agreement (Meca).

With more than 50% of New Zealand businesses employing fewer than 100 staff, the EMA was worried  changes in the Bill, combined with other law in the pipeline, would unduly burden smaller operators.

"Despite the rhetoric from Government that it is listening to business, this is a tangible example of ideology rather than solid public policy driving decisions and does not bode well for business."

National would repeal the Bill’s provisions when it got into power, the party’s workplace relations and safety spokesman Scott Simpson said.

National opposed both the ideological basis of the Bill and the specific legislation changes contained within it, he said.

The Bill reported back to the House included National’s dissenting view as a Minority Report.


Ignored or considered? Let's look at their 4 concerns, and how valid they are.

Firstly, overwhelming evidence from research since the inception of ninety-day trials, shows no increased employment opportunities, and an increase in examples of exploitation. To say they are used by "businesses of all sizes to give prospective employees a chance" might show intention, but does not show actual change at all.

The remaining points relate to collective bargaining. It's the EMA's ideology, not the government's, that is driving this wedge. Employers Associations believe in 'free market' principles. Ideological misconceptions aside, a free market is one that operates efficiently and competitively for BOTH buyers and sellers. To make decisions, both have equal access to full information, all competitors and all options. There is no power imbalance, no transaction or research costs and no barriers when changing suppliers or customers. A purely free market is only possible in theory then, and in reality regulation does NOT have to mean a market is less free. Such is the case here. This regulation addresses imbalances of power and information, promoting efficiencies in the labour market.