The Employment Relations Bill had its third and final reading in parliament this week.
It has been a work in progress for some time, as the three coalition partners in government have worked together to reach a consensus on critical issues.
It was important to New Zealand First that the new law struck a balance between protecting workers’ rights and employers’ interests.
We were especially concerned about the provision allowing for the abolition of the 90-day trial, and fought hard to retain the trial period for small and medium businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
It was a key win, and ensured that small businesses were not disadvantaged under the legislation.
New Zealand First has also endorsed a change to the bill limiting the access of unions to non-unionised workplaces by requiring prior consent from the employer.
Workplaces where union members are covered by a collective agreement will allow access to union representatives without employer consent being needed.
At workplaces where a multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) is in place, employers will be required to enter into bargaining, but have a right to opt out on reasonable grounds.
This means that two similar factories, one Auckland-based and one Kawerau-based for example, which have considerably different cost structures, now have an opportunity to negotiate their own agreement which benefits both employer and employees, while maintaining sustainable growth in differing situations.
New Zealand First has taken a common sense approach to this legislation, which will bring much-needed balance and positivity to the employment environment. It is a great example of coalition politics at work and there is much to celebrate.