Business NZ has lashed out at Labour's consideration of industry standards for collective contracts.
Earlier this month NZPA reported a speech the party's labour spokesman Trevor Mallard made to an industrial relations conference where he said, while it was not policy, the party was looking at a "rights-based legal framework" to allow all workers to access decent collective contracts.
At the moment people negotiate directly or through a union with their employer no matter the size of their workplace.
The new proposal would see terms and conditions extended to all workers in an industry with an arbitration body making final calls.
A possibility was to have industry codes or standards and enterprise level bargaining.
For example the National Distribution Union could reach a collective with three large supermarkets. The conditions or standards of those agreements would go into an industry document through negotiation or using a third party when agreement couldn't be reached.
That document could be then used to set conditions of other supermarket workers across the country.
Employers who successfully argued the industry documents did not meet the needs of their business could opt out.
Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly today said that Labour was suggesting a move to return to national awards and central wage fixing which, he said, was to blame for strikes and unrest in the 1970s-1980s.
"That system stifled growth and productivity in small businesses all over the country," he said.
"Going back to central wage fixing would mean every small business having to pay the same rates as large companies in Auckland. That would destroy countless jobs in countless small firms."
Labour leader Phil Goff said the party would unveil its industrial relations policy before the election and the idea was being considered.
"But it is not a return to 1960s-style compulsory unionism and national awards, that's a misrepresentation of what he (Mr Mallard) said and I suspect it was done to spice the issue up," he told reporters.
"I don't mind having a discussion and a debate with employers over that, no good employer has anything to worry about in terms of Labour's policies in that respect."
Mr Goff said unionism would continue to be voluntary.
At the moment some people had limited access to collective bargaining; "we are looking at that area."
Employers would have an opportunity to have input into the policy, he said.
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