The government has introduced a new bill to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000, with the goal strengthening the role of collective bargaining in the workplace.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the bill is designed to provide greater protections to workers, especially vulnerable workers, and ensure fair wages and conditions.
“Making life better for working New Zealanders is a fundamental value for the Labour-led government,” he says.
“Too many working New Zealanders are missing out on the benefits of economic growth under the current employment relations system.
“Good employment law strikes a balance between employers and workers. Under the previous government the balance tipped away from fair working conditions for workers. We will restore that balance.
“Many of the changes in the bill are focused on lifting wages through collective bargaining. Wages are too low for many families to afford the basics. This government believes everyone deserves a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.”
The government also intends to reinstate key minimum standards and protections to employees, such as the right to prescribed meal and rest breaks and limiting the use of 90 day trial periods to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
“This legislation is the first step in the government's commitment to creating a highly skilled and innovative economy that provides good jobs, decent work conditions, and fair wages,” says Iain.
“This is the start of a progressive programme in workplace relations which includes the passing of historic Equal Pay legislation, lifting the minimum wage to $20 by April 1, 2021, and the creation of a framework for Fair Pay Agreements.
“The legislation is expected to have its first reading in early February and I encourage everyone interested in this important legislation to have their say at the select committee process.”
The Council of Trade Unions says the government's changes will benefit many people, but believes more can be done.
“Most working people in New Zealand are aware that the playing field has been tipped away from them in the past decade,” says CTU President Richard Wagstaff. “The industrial changes announced today start the process of returning to a better quality of life for us all.
“The changes being made, such as strengthened rights for people to bargain together and to get support from their union, will help increase security and well-being for them and their families.
“This legislation is a welcome change of direction from the ongoing erosion of employment rights that we saw under the last government.
“However we think it's wrong that that the fire-at-will law has not been fully repealed, and we will be making this clear as the legislation progresses through Parliament. People working for a small business should have the same basic rights at work as all New Zealanders. This law doesn't deliver that.
“Nevertheless, in making the announcement today Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made it clear that her government is committed to its vision for a better life for working people in New Zealand. This is a good start.”