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Work place access restrictions a broken promise - Goff

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

Wellington, July 16 NZPA - National will break a pre-election promise if it goes ahead with plans to restrict union access to workplaces, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

Prime Minister John Key is expected this weekend to announce moves to widen the 90-day trial scheme under which workers can be fired without comeback and to reduce union access to workplaces.

The announcement will come at National's mid-term conference in Auckland, with unions planning to mobilise their forces to protest outside the venue.

If Mr Key moved to restrict union access to workplaces, he will have broken his pre-election promise to unions that right of access would be ensured, Mr Goff said.

"He's clearly gone back on that promise," Mr Goff said.

A spokesman for the prime minister said no promise had been broken, referring to the July 2008 manifesto which said National would "continue to allow union access to workplaces with the employer's consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld".

Mr Goff said it amounted to a fire-at-will attack on workers' rights, with his views today echoed by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

National allies the Maori Party expressed concern about the impact the 90-day trial would have on young Maori, making it even harder for them to find work during an "unemployment crisis".

Unions said the 90-day policy could lead to unsafe workplaces as new employees would be too afraid to raise concerns, but employers said it would offer them incentive to take a chance on an employee they might otherwise not offer a job.

The 90-day scheme at present applies to employment in businesses with fewer than 20 staff. The Government had been looking at expanding to firms with 50 employees, but it appeared set to be extended to all companies, regardless of size.

Mr Key said told One News that the results of the changed law had been "stunning" and meant many more had landed jobs. Under the current law newly hired workers can be let go within the first three months and cannot take a personal grievance in relation to dismissal.

BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said employment trial periods were "simply good workplace practice" and used worldwide.

Implemented consistently, they would benefit both employees and employers, he said.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) national secretary Andrew Little -- the Labour Party president -- said it was "an old-fashioned National Party attack on workers".

When the Council of Trade Unions met next week, the EPMU would call for mass mobilisation against the measures, he said.

The Service and Food Workers Union said it was "condemning" the plans, while the National Distribution Union (NDU) said countries with stronger workers' rights enjoyed higher wages, better working conditions, safer workplaces and healthier economies.

Mr Key was scoring "an own goal" with his attacks on workers, NDU assistant general secretary Karl Andersen said.

Extending the probation period would expose workers to the whims of bad managers, Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said. CTU spokeswoman Helen Kelly called the lack of right to appeal dismissal "disgraceful".

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