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Protesters try to storm National Party conference

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland, July 18 NZPA - Protesters at the National Party conference in central Auckland's Sky City pushed their way through security cordons and attempted to enter the building to show their opposition to newly introduced labour laws.

Up to 500 protesters according to police estimates, organised by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, used pots, pans, vuvuzelas and a persistent chant of "90 days - no way" to highlight their opposition to the Government's just announced policy to extend the 90-day probation period to cover all businesses and make union access to workplaces require employer consent.

Placards saying "Nats Are Rats" were distributed among the crowd and a 24-foot inflatable rat was perched at the base of the Sky Tower to make the point.

A group of protesters, including former Greens MP Sue Bradford, pushed through police and security and entered the building's foyer but were stopped from entering the main area. Police did not make any arrests.

Veteran protester John Minto, who led much of the chanting, said the policy was a vicious attack on workers' rights.

"It's going to mean 20 percent of workers lose their job every year because their employer doesn't like something about them and they don't even have to be given a reason for that."

Speaking inside at the conference, Prime Minister John Key said the 90-day period, which at present applies to businesses with 19 or fewer workers and is being extended to all businesses, had been a success.

"An evaluation of the 90-day trial period showed that 40 percent of employers who used it said they would not have, or were unlikely to have, hired that person without a trial period."

"The employment package is all about policies to help productivity and employment in New Zealand," he told 600 delegates.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union assistant national secretary Bill Newson said while the unions would not be able to reverse the Government's decision, they would be putting pressure on employers not to put the policy into practice.

"We're going to fight employers in the work place. We'll show up out the front of any employer who tries to deny a union organiser entrance and we will name and shame employers who sack people under the bill."

Maritime Union national vice president Garry Parsloe said the protest was just the first of many.

"We believe the campaign to get rid of this Government starts today," he said.

Other unions present at today's protest included Unite Union, New Zealand Educational Institute (primary school teachers), Tertiary Education Union, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, New Zealand Dairy Workers Association, and the Public Service Association.

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