11 Sep 2018

Employment law changes won't help business growth - CEO

5:20 pm on 11 September 2018

Business leaders are accusing the government of failing to listen to their objections about proposed employment law changes.

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope.

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

A parliamentary select committee has reported back on the Employment Relations Amendment law which will now go before Parliament for its second reading.

Proposed changes include an end to 90 day trials for businesses with more than 20 employees and allowing union representatives access to workplaces.

BusinessNZ's chief executive, Kirk Hope, told Morning Report its biggest concern was compelling employers to conclude collective bargaining.

"MECA [multi-employers collective agreements] is similarly problematic and not being able to opt-out is problematic," he said.

"Essentially what you would be requiring is a bunch of employers from across the country to agree terms and conditions that are consistent across the country without acknowledgment of regional variations in things like wages, so those things are really going to hurt provincial New Zealand.

"The legislation won't help productivity, it won't help business growth and won't provide the flexibility that New Zealand businesses are going to need heading into the future."

The president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Richard Wagstaff, told the programme the criticism was alarmist and the changes went some way to restoring rights eroded over the past nine years.

"We had the usual contest of ideas in there [the select committee], views reflected by workers and unions that working people need a better deal in New Zealand and we need better representation and get better outcomes," he said.

"The views from business were quite alarmist and not really a fair portrayal of what is going on and we've ended up with a select committee report which is sort of down the middle.

"It's not everything that everyone wanted but we think it goes some way to restoring the balance that we had actually under Helen Clark's Government."

The duty to conclude collective bargaining meant employers could not play games with no intention of reaching a deal, he said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report she is listening to business leaders on employment law changes - but she doesn't agree with them.

Chambers of Commerce have called on the Government to taken heed of concerns from the business community about the law changes.

But Ms Ardern said she has listened to those views.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs