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Friday, July 16

Attacks on workers and unions sinister

Leaked information that the Government will both extend the law that removes the right to appeal against unfair dismissal and restrict union access onto worksites is a throw-back to the bad old days of the Employment Contracts Act of the 1990s, CTU President Helen Kelly said today.

“We have already seen that National doesn’t understand that employment rights should include protection for workers from arbitrary employer decisions when they first removed appeal rights,” said Kelly, “but the revelation today that they also intend to stop unions accessing workplaces unless the employer agrees is a deliberate attempt to undermine the growing opposition of workers to the National/ACT industrial relations agenda. It is a breach of international law, anti democratic and will damage New Zealand ’s image as a place where work rights are respected.”

“John Key will need to explain why unions are OK on the one hand when issues like the economic crisis require co-operation, but then move to deny workers the right to freely join unions. Union membership is voluntary in New Zealand and the right to access workplaces is essential for efficient union operations. Clearly, workers work in workplaces – that is where they talk about work rights, collective bargaining, health and safety, productivity and other issues. To make union access subject to employer agreement will hinder the ability of workers to have a voice at work but also create unnecessary conflict between unions and employers.”

“It is important for every worker in New Zealand to have the right to appeal against unfair dismissal and it is a disgrace that the Government intends to remove that right from hundreds of thousands of workers.”

“The CTU has represented workers dismissed using the 90 day provisions in very unfair and unclear circumstance. For a number of the young people we have represented it has been a simply devastating experience. Unions have also experienced restricted access rights during the 1990s. This saw many employers using access as a tool to deny union membership. It included forcing workers to meet union officials one on one in rooms such as a public tea room, agreeing to access and denying it when unions turned up and many other diversionary tactics. Relationships suffered in this period.”