Employment law plans could destroy trust and not fit for this era

29 Mar 2018

Proposed employment law changes are a step backwards, and could destroy trust relationships between employers and employees and result in lower productivity, the horticulture industry says.

Horticulture New Zealand, joined by 13 other horticulture industry groups, has submitted to the Education and Workforce Select Committee on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill before Parliament.

“While we acknowledge the intent of the Bill is to ensure key minimum standards and protections for employees, we submit that it is important for employment law in New Zealand to strike the right balance between meeting workers’ rights and enabling businesses to grow and prosper,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“We believe the proposals in the Bill will impact adversely on existing employment relationships built on trust and confidence. The proposals will increase complexity, impose additional processes and costs, and inhibit economic growth. This seems contradictory to the Government’s objectives of a high performing, high wage economy, and in fact will return us to the past where New Zealand’s employment environment was one of low productivity.

“Requiring workers to compulsorily become part of a union on first employment in today’s society will not be acceptable to many workers. We believe that voluntary union options made available in a timely and appropriate manner are more suited to 2018 and beyond.

“Growers in the horticulture industry are mostly small to medium sized businesses with a few larger corporates in some sectors. Therefore, changes in employment law can have a dramatic effect on these businesses and their ability to remain profitable and continue to offer job opportunities to New Zealanders.

“The nature of horticulture work means that the Bill’s requirement to take breaks at the same time would be prohibitive to productive business. We submit in strong support of workers taking appropriate breaks during their work day, just not via mandated timing.

“Many horticulture employers are offering work and nurturing New Zealanders into a long-term career in the industry. As skills grow, these workers are compensated accordingly. So provisions that restrict an employer’s ability to offer different conditions of employment may mean growers cannot be involved in such programmes in future.

“Allowing union representatives to enter a workplace without obtaining consent also presents problems for the horticulture industry in regards to meeting obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

“The horticulture industry is committed to ensuring good standards and protection for employees. We are a rapidly growing industry and we are trying to attract more people across a range of jobs and skill sets. But we want employment law to enable us, not restrict businesses who already have great trust relationships with their employees.”

The submission is available here.