27 Feb 2012

Unions accuse Govt of backing worker rights attacks

9:07 am on 27 February 2012

Unions say the Government is encouraging attacks on workers rights, which is leading to stand-offs such as those at Ports of Auckland and in five AFFCO meatworks.

Some 300 port workers have begun a three-week strike in the latest industrial action in a long-running dispute over their collective contract.

In the AFFCO dispute, 760 meatworkers have been threatened with lockout notices if they don't agree to a new contract.

Helen Kelly from the Council of Trade Unions says the Government has encouraged a new trend of aggression by employers towards workers by steadily reducing workers' rights.

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall says the Government has signalled it wants wages to be reduced and more flexibility in the workforce, and employers are responding to that.

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell rejects the idea that the Government is in some way encouraging actions against employees, and says instead the disputes are the result of a clash between old and new work practices.

Mr Campbell says the world is changing and employers are looking for more flexible work conditions.

Phil O'Reilly from Business New Zealand says the current industrial disputes are driven by the economic climate not political influence.

He says that since the early 1990s there has been less industrial action in New Zealand that in any time in the country's history.