New Zealand: Labour rights under attack

Trade unions, environmental and Maori groups have united to oppose passage of new laws threatening collective bargaining and basic rights in the workplace.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill, introduced by the government in April, seeks to remove existing requirements for employers to negotiate collective agreements, and rest and meal break provisions.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told a select committee hearing: “This bill will weaken collective bargaining and mean that employers can favour individual agreements and refuse to conclude a collective agreement.”

In a speech to the International Labour Organisation this year, Kelly pointed to the NZ government’s intent to breach international labour laws: “Our current reality is a government which is deliberately choosing to legislate in a way it knows breaches our commitments under ILO conventions.”

The proposed law breaches fundamental ILO conventions on the right to organise and the right to collectively bargain.

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