Indication of likely changes to clauses regarding independent contractors, directors’ liability and the provision of commercially sensitive information are welcome, says Anne Knowles, Employers Federation chief executive in The Employer.
However it is concerning that Government is describing these as the ?lightning rod’ issues for employers, as if they were the only problems with this legislation.
Unfortunately, there are many more serious problems with the Employment Relations Bill. pervasive theme of distrust runs through the bill. Based on the presumptions of unequal bargaining power between employers and employees (big, powerful employer vs small, vulnerable employee), it seeks to take rights away from employers.
The presumption is wrong. Bargaining power is not so much related to size as it is to scarcity. If an individual has skills that are in demand then his or her bargaining power is ultimately more powerful, regardless of the size of the employer. The way to give employees more bargaining power is to help them gain skills that are in demand – far more constructive approach than taking away employers’ rights.
Employers want fair treatment. This bill is not fair. It takes rights away from employers and rather than giving more rights to employees, it gives them to unions instead. Its ?collectivist’ approach puts union rights way ahead of employers’ and employees’ rights.
Twenty changes employers want to the ERB:
1. Don’t give monopoly rights to unions (let non-union members negotiate collective agreements, as they can now).
2. Make collective agreements cover employees not the actual work (so we don’t go back to those terrible demarcation disputes of the ’70s and ’80s).
3. Get rid of automatic collective agreement coverage during the first 30 days’ employment (so employers don’t have to pay for skills that employees don’t have).
4. Delete Clause 66 (continuity of employment). Employers and employees should have the option of negotiating redundancy agreements, rather than having the Government impose expensive redundancy provisions on all employers, regardless of the circumstances. This clause will be an enormous disincentive to hiring people.
5. Allow negotiated union access only where union members are known to be employed.
6. Keep fixed term contracts as they are in existing law.
7. Keep the existing law relating to independent contractors.
8. Let the legislation apply only to those the Government thinks are truly vulnerable (eg to those earning below certain wage).
9. Keep the current Employment Court/Tribunal structures instead of the unwieldy structures proposed by ERB.
10. Make strike action to get multi-employer agreement unlawful.
11. Let employers replace striking workers.
12. Let employers communicate with their employees during bargaining.
13. Remove the ?good faith’ provisions, as they are too subjective and will lead to uncertainty and increased litigation.
14. Don’t give powers to authorities to cancel or vary individual agreements unless these are found to be harsh, oppressive, or procured by undue influence or duress.
15. Get rid of all the clauses that entail breaking existing contracts.
16. Allow probationary period at the beginning of employment, where personal grievances do not apply (to stop current cynical grievance industry from getting even worse).
17. Remove the ?diminished capacity’ provisions currently relating to unfair individual bargaining (they would allow just about anything to be seen as unfair).
18. Remove the ?exceptional circumstances’ provision for submission of personal grievances after 90 days (it would allow opportunistic, fallacious claims long after employment has terminated).
19. Get rid of provisions relating to directors’, officers’ and agents’ personal liability (these will prove disincentive to accepting positions of responsibility).
20. Don’t make employers foot the bill for union education, deduction of fees, and other items that are the union’s responsibility, not the employer’s.
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