Minister hits back at business leaders over 'misleading' campaign

Minister of Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway is hitting back at business leaders, after they launched a campaign critical of upcoming employment law changes.

Mr Lees-Galloway claims the campaign - as well as opposition from National - is responsible for plunging business confidence.

The 'Fix the Bill' campaign is run by the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), Business Central, Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Employers Otago Southland. It claims:

  • 90-day trials will be scrapped for businesses with more than 20 employees
  • union reps will have access to workplaces without permission
  • businesses will be forced to settle collective agreements and
  • businesses won't be able to opt out of a multi-employer collective agreement

Mr Galloway told Stuff only the 90-day trial claim is accurate.

"I think that's been deliberate by the EMA. They've been misleading their members, and the rhetoric that they've been using and the National Party have been using has probably contributed to the fall in business confidence itself.

"They've been misrepresenting what our changes actually mean and in some cases fearmongering and I think that's unhelpful."

Keeping the trials for small businesses was a win for Government coalition partner New Zealand First.

In June, business confidence slumped to a seven-year low. Nineteen percent of businesses said they expected economic conditions to deteriorate, with the report saying the increase in the minimum wage is impacting the retail sector.

The Government's proposed Bill will amend the Employment Relations Act 2000. The Bill aims to "promote and strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace" and restore "key minimum standards and protections for employees".

The Bill is currently before Select Committee.

There are more changes coming, which for some industries will be more significant than those currently under discussion.

The Government set up a working group led by Jim Bolger looking into Fair Pay Agreements. The agreements will set minimum employment terms and conditions across entire industries, perhaps including the likes of bus drivers who are currently disputing conditions in Wellington.