National MP slams Employment Reforms as retrograde

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

It seems that the Labour-led government has been formed with only one agenda; that is to strengthen the rights of its voter base; the Unions.

In the process of strengthening Union rights, it is clear that the Labour Party wants to ignore the 82.3% of workers who do not belong to a Union.

It wants to bring in large changes to employment laws without any consultation with people who will be most affected.

We in the National Party worked hard to consult employers and employees before formulating legislation that was positive not just for employers but also for employees and the New Zealand economy.

The 90-Day Itch

Changes such as eliminating the 90-Day trial period for all firms except small businesses will, without doubt, have a major impact on how businesses and employers choose to employ people.

The 90-Day trial period was rolled out nationwide in 2011 by the New Zealand National Party to encourage all businesses, small and large, to grow their workforces and take a chance on new workers and long-term unemployed people.

The changes from Labour will make it much harder for young, unskilled and vulnerable workers to find employment and make it too risky for mid-sized employers to take a chance on a new worker with no track record of employment.

These changes will only reduce job opportunities and wage growth, especially for those vulnerable workers on the edges of the labour market.

National’s Achievements

The Law as it stands encourages all businesses, small and large, to grow their workforce and take a chance on new workers and long-term unemployed people.

Since the 90-Day trial has been in place, we have seen a big move into the labour market from groups who have traditionally been left out. As a result, our participation rate of adults in the labour market is the highest it has ever been.

The biggest single group of new workers is sole parents.

We now have the lowest number of sole parents relying on a welfare benefit since the late 1980s because tens of thousands have successfully moved into the labour market.

Larger businesses are often the ones who take on vulnerable workers, including people like ex-prisoners and people who are recovering from difficult health situations, because they have the training systems in place to work with them.

Valuing Workers

We want every New Zealander to have a chance to work. Valuable workers are like gold to a business but many of them just need the opportunity to prove themselves.

New Zealand currently has one of the highest performing economies in the world for job growth and the most important thing to a worker is that there’s someone who’s prepared to take a chance and give them a job.

We know that the employment settings we have created 10,000 new jobs a month for the last two years. And making changes like reforming the 90-Day trial will only slow that growth.

For a party which claims to be working for the needy, the changes to our employment laws seem contradictory to their claims.

No flexibility

Apart from changing the 90-Day trial period setting work breaks of an employee in stone provides neither the employee nor the employer with any flexibility.

The new laws also impose extra requirements on businesses, in order to advantage Unions, when negotiating agreements.

The existing law already ensures that businesses must negotiate new agreements in good faith. These new requirements include forcing workers to pay money to a Union, even if they do not want to do so.

Labour will force businesses into negotiating the same employment contracts across multiple companies in an industry, if that is what the Union wants. This means, for example, an employer cannot innovate by offering their workers extra rewards for doing new things in order to be more efficient than their competitors.

In the end, it will be families who pay the price for these changes through higher prices for the stuff they buy, lower pay packets due to poor productivity, or not having new goods or services to buy that they want.

I am not sure if this is what we New Zealanders signed up for in the secret coalition agreement between Labour and its coalition partners.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is Member of Parliament on National List.

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