Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Fire at will bill

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill is now up at

The core of the bill is new sections 67A and B, which allow small employers ("by agreement" - meaning by economic coercion) to impose a trial period of up to 90 days on new staff, during which they will have no right to bring legal proceedings if dismissed. While existing rights to bring proceedings for racial discrimination and sexual harassment are purportedly preserved, the effect of new s67 B (2) will be to completely undermine them in practice. So, this is a racist's and sexist's charter.

Oh, and as a bonus: employers can now sack you or dock your pay if you join KiwiSaver. Merry Christmas! (The government apparently intends to address this with amendments to the KiwiSaver Act, but if so, they should repeal the anti-discrimination provisions when they make those changes, rather than repealing them now and leaving employers with a year or more in which to exploit their absence. The failure to do this can only be regarded as intentional, a deliberate attempt to create a nasty loophole).

Finally, there's this nasty little bit at the end of the explanatory note:

The Small Business Advisory Group has recommended greater employment flexibility, including more effective trial periods and less rigid requirements around fixed-term contracts, as a means for helping small business in the current economic environment. Extending this initiative to all employers would have a positive effect on labour market efficiency. Consideration could be given to evaluating the outcomes of this legislative change with a view to extending it to cover all employers in the future.
(Emphasis added)

This is the thin end of the wedge for introducing greater employment insecurity in this country. And we shouldn't put up with it.