Workers have answered a call to arms to fight back against the Government’s proposed employment law changes. But HR professionals are backing some of the employment clauses.
Cleaners, engineers and nurses will be among the thousands of people expected to turn up to a rally in Auckland this afternoon in protest over the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.
The bill, which passed its first reading and is now in front of the industrial relations select committee, carries numerous changes affecting workers’ basic rights.
It will allow employers to opt out of collective bargaining if negotiations break down, let employers out of multi-employer collective agreements, reduce wages and deny workers breaks.
Despite an outcry from workers, HRNZ National Vice President Julia Stones says members generally had a positive response to the changes.
“They believe there are many good changes being proposed but some areas require further clarification or qualification,” Stones said.
She said members supported the removal of the 30-day rule and the reduced pay for partial strike action but had concerns about cutting workers' meals and rest breaks.
“There is general concern for smaller employers and the health and safety risks,” Stones said. “Given the poor track record of health and safety in New Zealand, HR professionals are extremely reluctant to support this clause."
Unions have told a parliamentary committee the proposed changes are unnecessary, unjust and breach New Zealand's international obligations.
EPMU Director of Organising Rachel Mackintosh said the rally is just the beginning of action against the law.
“It’s a rallying cry and part of an on-going campaign to hold the government to account,” she said.
The law changes hold more threat to the most vulnerable workers such as cleaners and carers but Macintosh said people from all careers were coming out to support the action against the bill.
“They remember 20 years ago when wages went down rapidly because of changes like this,” she added.
Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the response from workers had been “overwhelming”.
“People are against this law change and want the Government to know,” she said. “We’ve received over 12,000 form submissions and hundreds of personalised submissions asking to speak to the Committee.”
Mackintosh said another rally will be held tomorrow in Christchurch but it won’t be the end of the industrial action.
“This will go on until we can stop the law,” she said.