19 Jul 2013

Employment law could breach international standards

9:26 pm on 19 July 2013

The Employers and Manufacturers Association says New Zealand shouldn't air its dirty laundry on the international stage.

Cabinet papers in March show that Labour Minister Simon Bridges admitted that parts of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill could be inconsistent with International Labour Organisation standards.

CTU president Helen Kelly.

CTU president Helen Kelly. Photo: SUPPLIED

The legislation would allow employers to walk away from negotiations on a collective contract and in some cases ban strikes.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said it would start a campaign on Monday against the proposed changes and take the matter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) if the bill becomes law.

But Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesperson David Lowe on Friday questioned what that would achieve.

"The Government's trying to pass a law which is going to help businesses survive in a tough environment that will help with jobs and job security. And it does seem a shame that initiatives with those aims in mind end up having our laundry washed on the international stage. I think most New Zealanders would rather that didn't happen."

However, the CTU said the association is always keen to promote international trade and relations, and so should be very concerned about a potential breach of standards.

Meat company AFFCO, a major New Zealand employer, said it is not convinced that the proposed workplace laws do breach ILO standards, as they would have been taken into account when the legislation was drafted.

The company said the changes are reasonable and provide a more even playing field for employers and unions entering into collective bargaining.

Labour said an ILO ruling against the legislation would be an embarrassment for the Government.

The Green Party said while the Government wouldn't be bound by any ruling, it would indicate that New Zealand's working conditions are no better than some Third World countries and could damage its brand and reputation.