The Dominion-Post reports that the government is seeking to revenge itself on the Exclusive Brethren by removing their religious exemption from union access. Currently, sections 23 and 24 of the Employment Relations Act allow employers who are "practising member[s] of a religious society or order whose doctrines or beliefs preclude membership of any organisation or body other than the religious society or order of which the employer is a member" to deny unions access to their workplaces unless they have members there. Normally, unions are allowed reasonable access to workplaces even where they have no members there to both recruit and impart information. The exemption was introduced at the specific request of the Exclusive Brethren, who felt that allowing unions to talk to their employees would violate their deeply held belief in separation from "all groups, unions or associations of a business, shareholding, property, political, pleasure, social, medical, or superannuational nature".
The exemption is a bad law which explicitly discriminates on the basis of religion, and which violates the freedoms of association, expression, and thought, conscience and belief of employees. An employer may have a religious belief that his workers cannot belong to a union - but that doesn't give them the right to impose that belief on others. New Zealanders have a right to belong to, seek out and receive information from unions, and that is something the Brethren will just have to get used to. Just like homosexuals, civil unions, and women in Parliament.
And that said, I am extremely uncomfortable with the way this is being done. It is brutal and Muldoonist, and a clear example of a government using the power of the state as a weapon against its enemies. That's not the sort of politics I like to see, and while I want to see these clauses repealed, I'd rather the government restrained its urge to lash out at this stage.