Employment law changes frustrate some farmers

  • 11/09/2018

A farming group is concerned over proposed new employment laws being reported back to Parliament this week. 

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill is Labour's flagship employment Bill. 

It would scrap 90-day trials for all large businesses, see greater union access to workplaces, and force employers to accept multi-employer collective agreements if their employees want them.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Bill was designed to provide greater protections to workers and strengthen the role of collective bargaining in the workplace.

However Federated Farmers is worried about the impact on the rural sector.

The group's employment spokesman Chris Lewis says there is no problem with the current law, which enables union representatives to enter a farm or any other workplace to talk to workers after liaising about a suitable time.

"But under the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, union representatives can just bowl into a busy shearing or milking shed when they feel like it, with no need to give notice or seek permission.

"Not only is that discourteous and a recipe for friction, but it can be dangerous when staff are flat tack with machinery and animals," says Mr Lewis.

"Whether it's Fish & Game people taking a weekend off from running down our sector to access waterways, visitors to the High Country treating private farmland as the national estate and now MPI inspectors not even needing a warrant or reason to search and seize, farming families' quiet enjoyment of their land appears to be up for grabs," Mr Lewis says.

Federated Farmers is also concerned about the removal of the 90-day trial arrangements for businesses employing more than 20 people.

Mr Lewis says that will be a barrier to employers willing to take a punt on a job applicant with a chequered work history or limited qualifications.

Mr Lees-Galloway is adamant the changes will make life better for working New Zealanders.

"Too many working New Zealanders are missing out on the benefits of economic growth under the current employment relations system," Mr Lees-Galloway said in a statement earlier.

"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," he said.