When the government passed the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 last year, it promised us that the provisions removing employees meal breaks would be used only in workplaces where there was no other alternative and that ordinary kiwi workers wouldn't be affected. They lied. Now, the legislation is being used by major retail chains in an effort to steal employees meal breaks:
Staff at fashion chain Cotton On are facing the possibility of working without tea and meal breaks after a last minute claim in collective agreement negotiations.
It follows the introduction in October last year of a law that took away the legal right to a tea break. The Employment Relations Amendment Bill also weakened collective bargaining.
Labour spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway told Newstalk ZB the bill was being used against its proposed purpose.
"This was sold to us as something that was going to be important for small businesses and for workplaces where the work flows are unpredictable."
Cotton On workers had a predictable work-flow as part of large corporation, Mr Lees-Galloway said, and the company was trying to "pare back" its employees' work conditions.
This was totally predictable, as is the response: strikes. Because if there's one thing kiwi workers will fight for, its the right to have lunch.
Meanwhile, I'd suggest not buying from Cotton On, or from any other business which attempts to use this law. If the government won't constrain employers behaviour properly, then we will have to, through boycotts and bad PR.