The Government has announced ten 1970s style changes to union privileges that will disrupt New Zealand’s settled industrial relations environment and tip the balance in favour of union officials. This is despite unions representing just 10 per cent of private sector workers. And this is just the start of the changes. Later this year the Government are planning even more sweeping powers for unions including letting them bargain collectively for a whole industry, cutting off the right off employers to work with their staff directly. We’re also seeing moves to collectivise contractors and reduce some of the more flexible ways to create jobs like short- term and seasonal work.
The first phase of union related changes include:
1. Forcing businesses to accept multi-employer collective agreements even when those businesses were not a part of the negotiations.
2. Requiring businesses to sign-up to collective agreements even if they don’t agree to them.
3. Forcing businesses to pay unions for representing workers who are not even members.
4. Union leaders can walk into a business whenever they want.
5. Re-introduce a 30 day rule where new employees must be treated as if they are union members for the first 30 days even if they are not.
6. Requiring businesses to act as union recruiters including distribute union membership forms to new employees.
7. Repeal of partial strike pay deductions where employers can reduce wages for industrial action that disrupts a business, but is less than a full strike
Labour is giving power to their friends in the union movement as a thank you for their support in the election. This is despite union membership now being only 9 per cent of all workers in the private sector and only 17.7 per cent of all workers.
These changes will roll back the clock to the bad old days of adversarial employment relations and increase the likelihood of unions calling strikes and other industrial action. Over time they will help reduce the competitiveness of New Zealand businesses, especially against overseas competitors.
National backs workers and businesses to have modern, grown-up conversations about employment policies like pay, leave and allowances. Labour on the other hand thinks you’re not up to it – and so wants unions, the Government and industry bodies to agree those settings for you.