14 May 2012

Changes to labour laws approved by Cabinet

8:14 pm on 14 May 2012

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says proposed changes to labour laws confirmed on Monday will make protracted industrial disputes less likely.

The changes approved by Cabinet include allowing employers to opt out of multi-employer bargaining and removing the requirement to conclude collective bargaining.

Opposition parties and unions say the proposals undermine workers' rights, but Ms Wilkinson told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme they will improve collective bargaining.

Ms Wilkinson says parties can still go to mediation if no collective agreement is met.

She says the ability for employees to request flexible working arrangements will be extended to all workers.

At the moment only caregivers who have been in the job for 6 months can request a flexible working arrangement.

The Council of Trade Unions says the changes will create chaos in bargaining between workers and employers.

One of the proposals approved by the Cabinet is removing the requirement to conclude collective bargaining.

CTU president Helen Kelly says that would give employers all the power.

Under such a condition, she says, Ports of Auckland workers could all have been dismissed and replaced.

Other changes include allowing for partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action and removing the 30-day rule that forces non-union members to take union terms and conditions.

The changes are expected to go before Parliament this year.