90-day trials scrapped for medium, large firms

  • 06/12/2018

Unions are confident changes to employment law are big wins for working New Zealanders.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act passed its third reading last night. The Government says it will restore "a better workplace relations framework for New Zealand workers".

"The Act restores many of the conditions that existed during the previous Labour-led Government, at time when the economy enjoyed record-low unemployment and unprecedented economic growth," said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

He says the Act:

  • reinstates prescribed meal and rest breaks
  • strengthens collective bargaining and union rights
  • restores protections for "vulnerable workers", regardless of the size of their employer
  • limits 90-day trials to business with fewer than 20 employees.

National called the Act "one of this Government's biggest economic mistakes" and said it would repeal it, should it win the 2020 election.

"The cumulative impact of changes to workplace relations in this Bill will choke economic growth, further hurt business confidence, stifle job opportunities for vulnerable employees, return us to 1970s-style adversarial union activity and be bad for employees and employers," said workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson.

"It seeks to grow trade union membership and influence, and reinforces the political, historic and financial relationships between the union movement and the NZ Labour Party."

But unions have welcomed the changes, the Public Service Association saying they were well overdue.

"It just helps rebalance the power between workers and employers, and we welcome it," said national secretary Glenn Barclay.

"We need to move beyond a low-wage economy to one we can build a good future on."

The majority of changes will come into force on May 6 next year.

"The Government has talked about their fair pay agreement, the ability to provide a floor for workers and all those in ununionised industries, and that's hugely important," said Mr Barclay.

Treasury-funded study published in 2016 found no evidence the trail periods had any impact on the number of people hired, including the hiring of disadvantaged jobseekers.

Small businesses get to keep the trial period thanks to New Zealand First, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in January.