Lindsay Perigo
Lindsay Perigo

The Politically Incorrect Show - 01/08/2000

[Music - Die Fledermaus]

Good afternoon, KAYA ORAAAA & welcome to the Politically Incorrect Show on the free speech network, Radio Pacific, for Tuesdau August 1, proudly sponsored by Neanderton Nicotine Ltd, the show that says bugger the politicians & bureaucrats & all the other bossyboot busybodies who try to run our lives with our money; that stands tall for free enterprise, achievement, profit & excellence against the state-worshippers in our midst; that stands above all for the most sacred thing in the universe, the liberty of the human individual.

[Music up, music down]

Today I am going to take the unusual step of substituting for my own editorial the words of an ACT MP - Muriel Newman. ACT have been leading the charge against our socialist regime's Employment Relations Bill which will restore the tyranny of unions to the workplace & a parade of half-wit cloth-cap thugs with North English accents to our television screens. ACT are to be commended for doing the job the National opposition has defaulted on, though I wish they would go the whole hog & propose as an alternative that there be NO alternative - no separate laws, just ordinary contract law, governing labour relations. THAT is the only approach fully consistent with individual liberty - which value, of course, is not ACT's strong suit. Nonetheless, Muriel's weekly opinion piece, released yesterday, is a useful & succinct summation of the evils & likely consequences of the proposed new law. Here it is.

The Employment Relations Bill is back before Parliament this week.  It will be rammed through all its stages under urgency next week.  It will come into effect on October 2nd.

The select committee received some 18,000 submissions, compared with fewer than 500 received when the Employment Contracts Act was introduced. The ERB represents the most radical re-write of New Zealand industrial law in our history. It has nothing to do with good industrial relations, but everything to do with the government paying back the unions for their support at the election. This bill gives the unions unencumbered access to the workplace, monopoly power to negotiate collective contracts and it makes multi-employer strikes legal.

If this bill had been in place during the Ansett pilots strike, the strike would have undoubtedly been extended to include Air New Zealand, and the whole country would have been held to ransom, because the bill makes it illegal to break a strike. A small business faced with strike action cannot even bring in family or friends to carry on running the business. The law turns strike action into a lethal weapon.

As a result of the select committee process, some changes to the bill have been made.

The clause which made contractors into employees has been dropped. Government members were forced to recognise that the workplace has changed considerably in the last decade. There are now some 100,000 independent contractors running their own businesses, and if direct selling agents are included, the numbers swell to 200,000. Many threatened to ignore the law if it did come in, since any move to change their status to that of employees, would cause financial ruin.

The controversial clause 66, which in effect gave employees on collective contracts compulsory redundancy if a business runs out of work or is sold, has been dropped. Instead, parties must make arrangements for staff, in a similar manner to what currently happens now, voluntarily.

In spite of overwhelming opposition, the clause, which allows union access to confidential information has been modified only slightly. While employers cannot refuse to provide confidential information about their business, they can now insist on the information being released to an agreed third party. That party then has the power to decide whether or not to release it to the union, without any right of appeal by the employer. In the event of confidential information being leaked, there are no penalties.

The bill has increased the powers of the labour inspectors, who can now enter, search, and issue fines.  The Employment Relations Authority, described as a 'star chamber', has powers to override the Companies Act and other current Acts of Parliament. The Authority can make orders for reinstatement, damages, compliance orders and, in fact, rule on everything except injunctions and lockouts.

The bill has left its central provision, 'good faith bargaining', ill defined, which will create a field day for lawyers. Further, the bill gives the Minister the extraordinary power to issue codes by decree, in a manner totally contrary to our Westminster style of democratic government. The grounds for taking personal grievances have been broadened, to include everything in the Human Rights Act. A major new category for a claim, introduced in the bill, is for so-called 'unfair bargaining', which can occur if the employee doesn't understand the provisions of the agreement due to age, sickness, mental, educational or communicational disability or emotional distress.

There are also requirements for personal grievance procedures to be clearly outlined by employers: "Hi, great to have you join the company, and here is how you bring a PG against us". Or, "sorry you are leaving, here is yourgold watch and, by the way, if you get into financial strife, here is how you bring a PG against me"!

All in all, this totally unnecessary bill will bring back strikes, bring back picket lines, will drive employers overseas, will prevent investment in New Zealand, and will cost jobs. While ACT has opposed the bill every step of the way we do not have the numbers to stop it going through. At the next election, however, after there is a change of government we will have great pleasure in repealing it!

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