Employment Relations Amendment Bill passes third reading

By Te Ao Māori News

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament with National, ACT and United Future in support with a final vote of 62 in support and 58 against.

As a result of the changes, the statutory obligation for tea breaks will be removed, allowing employers and employees to agree on compensatory measures. The employer’s obligation of collective bargaining will also be removed.

In yesterday's debate, National MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said the bill would allow for more flexibility in the workplace. He said it would not take away tea breaks from workers but allow them and employers to make arrangements to fit their workplace.

Labour has long opposed the bill claiming it was an infringement of workers’ rights.

NZ First the Maori Party and the Greens said the bill presumed relationships between employers and workers were based on them having equal strength. However many low paid workers had little power and their right to collective bargaining, wages and working conditions would be undermined.

Kevin List of the Greens also released a statement saying, "This legislation is a blatant attempt to undermine unions and limit a worker's ability to collectively negotiate decent wages and conditions with their employers. Employers now have all the power when it comes to negotiations."

Earlier this week Minister of Education, Hekia Parata dismissed claims that the Government’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill would undermine workers’ rights. She told Te Kāea, “many Māori are also business owners and the overarching reason behind the proposed new legislation is to balance the rights and needs of employees as well as employers.” 

Ikaroa Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri called on Iwi Leaders to take a stand against the bill  and Te Rarawa Chair and member of the Iwi Chairs Forum, Haami Piripi said he would raise the issue with the group and attempt to find a way forward that will support Māori workers in this process.