Govt-union relations take another hit

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) says will no longer co-operate with the Government on trade issues and a United States union boss has cancelled a visit here in response to looming employment law changes.

The Government this month announced the 90-day probation period for new employees, which covers businesses with under 20 staff and means they can be dismissed without recourse within that time, will be extended to all businesses.

Other measures announced included requiring permission for union access to work places, allowing workers to trade in one of four annual leave weeks for cash and transfer public holidays on agreement, and also requiring workers to provide proof of illness on request when they take sick days.

Unionists staged an aggressive protest at the National Party's annual conference in Auckland where the announcements took place.

CTU president Helen Kelly said today the council had always raised concerns about trade agreement negotiations in terms of tariff reductions, labour standards and other matters, "but we have also been prepared to work with government and business to promote the best possible outcome for New Zealand".

"But now this Government has gone down a path which tries to compete with other countries through reducing fairness at work for New Zealand wage and salary earners."

Ms Kelly said AFL-CIO (central union organisation in USA) president Richard Trumka had intended visiting here early next year on invitation from the Government, but following discussions between the organisations that would no longer happen.

"It would be untenable for him to be here meeting a government that stands against all he believes in."

She said the CTU could not work with a government on trade matters when workers' rights were being undermined. "That can only result in one thing - as it did in the 1990s - lower wages and conditions for workers."



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