Legislation remains unfair to women

Building Services Contractors New Zealand (BSC) has questioned a Government report to the United Nations highlighting the role of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act in improving working conditions for women.

It is ironic that Part 6A has been held up as an example of measures that New Zealand has taken to protect women workers, when it is currently at risk of being significantly undermined by proposed legislative changes.

The report, prepared by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, outlines New Zealand’s progress in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

Flawed statute

It cites Part 6A as a measure which has had positive impacts on working conditions for women. The amendment was introduced in 2006 to ensure continuity of employment for specified categories of vulnerable workers when a new employer takes over contracts they are working on.

While Part 6A has some flaws, by and large it has proved effective in improving job security for those working in cleaning, food catering, caretaking, orderly and laundry services which includes a large proportion of women.

However, the Government Select Committee has recommended amendments to Part 6A including exempting small companies employing fewer than 19 staff from complying with Part 6A when contracts change, despite our submissions opposing this aspect.

If this change goes ahead, it will mean smaller companies taking over a contract would not be obliged to take on the existing workers.

This legislation, which is now being held up by the Government as an example of how New Zealand supports women workers, could end up putting them at greater risk.

Patrick Lee-Lo is President of Building Services Contractors New Zealand

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