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More concerns were aired in Parliament's transport and industrial relations committee today over employer-employee power imbalances likely to result from proposed employment law changes.
The committee is considering the Employment Relations (No 2) and Holidays Amendment bills, and as has been the case in the past few weeks, the overriding issue today related to the proposed extension to all businesses of the 90-day trial period.
Submitting on behalf of the 46,000-strong New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), advisor Jock Lawrie said the organisation had made gains over the past 10 years in both the public and private sectors in terms of shaping good relationships between staff and employers.
"Having travelled so far down this road, it is with some considerable sorrow that we find ourselves submitting on the proposals contained in this bill," he said.
Mr Lawrie said the NZNO saw the main provisions of the bill as "corrosive of the productive employment relationship we have worked so hard to secure on behalf of our members".
They were likely to replace a workplace environment involving trust and cooperation to one based on fear and suspicion that workers were not up to the job.
Mr Lawrie said the 90-day laws could also suppress workforce development as laws could be applied to existing employees when they took on different roles, including promotions.
National MP Michael Woodhouse pointed out that would not be the case for employees changing roles within the same organisation.
The Manufacturing and Construction Workers Union said the proposed changes made "an already bad piece of legislation even worse for the working majority in this country".
It pandered to employers who wanted as much control as possible over their staff and to those who were hostile to unions or collectivity.
The New Zealand Tramways Union said one of the main concerns was the potential for employers to use the probationary period as a way to dismiss employees who decided to join a union.
"While no employer would ever admit to this, the reality is that there are some employers in this industry who would certainly use such a provision in law for that purpose."
Federated Farmers dairy sector chairman Lachlan MacKenzie took an opposing view of the laws, which already apply to businesses with less than 20 staff. He said before that was the case he had taken risks and employed people with questionable backgrounds, but that was not the norm with farmers. "An awful lot of people don't take those risks."
Mr MacKenzie said he didn't consider rights were being taken away and that any employers abusing the law should be "run out of town".
"The only way I have good productivity and high standards out of my staff is by treating them with respect and due regard is by helping them achieve good outcomes.
"There are bad employers and bad employees -- we know that -- and the 90-day bill to me allows far more opportunities to happen."