Flexibility not to be feared

October 31, 2014

Employment reforms which passed into law yesterday are part of  National’s plan to create a fairer, more flexible labour market that helps lift earnings and create more jobs.

They are necessary reforms for:

1. More flexible work arrangements

Our employment law reforms will extend the rights of employees to ask for flexible work arrangements, including from the start of their employment. Current legislation only provides this option for those with caregiving responsibilities.

The law needs to reflect the diversity of different people’s employment needs in the modern, fast-changing economy in which we live. We believe all employees and employers should be able to agree on flexible work practices that suit both parties.

2. More jobs

Lowering compliance costs for small-to-medium sized businesses helps them to focus on expanding their business and creating more jobs. Last year 83,000 more jobs were added to the New Zealand economy, our unemployment rate continues to be lower than most OECD countries, and we have raised the minimum wage every year we’ve been in office. We need to keep building that momentum to help even more Kiwis into work.

3. More choice for employees

A return to good faith bargaining during employment negotiations will help prevent unnecessary, fruitless, and protracted collective bargaining that can create uncertainty for employees and employers. Our changes will give new employees more choice by no longer being forced to take union terms and conditions for their first 30 days of employment.

4. A stronger economy and higher incomes

Requiring parties to provide notice of a strike or lock-out will mean both employees and employers aren’t able to unduly disrupt the running of a business.

Enabling employees and employers to agree on flexible arrangements that work for both parties will help to lift productivity, growth, and incomes.

5. Protecting fairness at work

We’re maintaining the key protections for employees at work. Contrary to the politically-motivated claims of opponents, relaxing the current over-prescriptive and often unworkable provisions around rest and meal breaks does not override any requirements for breaks to be provided. We’ll also place clearer expectations on the Employment Relations Authority to ensure rights are upheld and timely resolution of disputes.

The opposition and unions are doing their best to show that workers should fear the changes. On the contrary they should celebrate the flexibility.

It is possible that a few employers will use changes to exploit staff.

That is always a risk but it’s not a reason to handicap the majority of employers and their staff with inflexible rules which add costs and hamper productivity.


Process problems

September 30, 2014

How could this be right?

 A dairy farm worker fired for abusing cows has won a case against his former employer for unfair dismissal on a technicality, even though he was found to have mistreated cattle.

But he will only receive half of the compensation claim because of his actions.  . .

Proven animal abuse ought to be grounds for instant dismissal.

Process is important but there’s something wrong when a technical breech costs the employer so dearly even though the judge accepted the evidence against the employee and reduced the amount the employer had to pay.


Rural contractors need migrant workers

September 25, 2014

Rural contractors want changes in immigration rules to allow them to employ migrants:

Rural Contractors New Zealand has congratulated Prime Minister John Key and the National Party for its success in this year’s general election.

RCNZ President Steve Levet says a clear-cut result is good for both the country and our economy, but the rural contracting sector would now like to see some action from the new government in a couple of key areas .

“There is no doubt the agriculture sector is an important and valuable part of New Zealand’s economy – and rural contracting is a vital and important component of that,” he explains.

“However, as RCNZ has been saying for some time, we really need some changes in the rules around migrant workers in the rural contracting sector – as there is a huge gap between rural contractors’ needs for trained, agricultural machinery operators and unemployed New Zealanders who can do this work.”

The imperative to employ local people before migrants is sensible but only if the locals have the skills and attitude required.

Mr Levet says the rules around employing temporary, skilled people from overseas prepared to work for 6-8 months each year must be simplified – as do the regulations restricting people who have previously worked here in past seasons coming back to New Zealand to work.

“Contracting is a seasonal business and one that uses sophisticated machinery that requires technical skill to operate productively,” he explains. “Part of this shortfall is met by bringing in skilled operators from overseas.”

Mr Levet is urging the new Government to seriously look at these regulations and how the process can be streamlined and simplified.

He adds that RCNZ is also keen to work with opposition political parties to help them better understand the needs and issues of the rural contracting sector.

“It is clear from some of the debate we heard during the election campaign that many parties are not aware of the dire shortage of suitable agricultural machinery operators,” Mr Levet explains. “It is apparent many politicians are completely ignorant about this problem and how rural contractors actually rely on employing skilled people from overseas on a temporary basis each season and have done so for many years.”

Mr Levet also points out that many of the applicants Work and Income NZ (WINZ) tries to fill these vacancies with; either do not have the right skill-set and/or attitude to be successful.

“We are talking about operating highly technical and very expensive pieces machinery. It is unrealistic, unsafe and impractical to expect unemployed people to walk off the street and successfully take up these positions.”

Mr Levet says his organisation will continue to work closely with the new Government, opposition political parties and officials too both ensure that locals have the best opportunity for employment in the sector – as well as continuing to lobby for changes to the rules around engaging overseas seasonal workers for the benefit of the rural contracting sector. . .

Rural contracting is largely seasonal with a high demand for staff when work needs to be done and periods where there is little to do.

This makes contracting unattractive to people who need full time permanent jobs and more suitable for people on working holidays or other migrants who are happy to work when and where there’s work available and then go somewhere else.


Why we need 90 day trial

September 18, 2014

This example of an unscrupulous worker highlights why we need 90 day trial periods:

Federated Farmers believes the experience of a husband and wife farming team in Taranaki underscores why the 90-days provision is so important to small businesses.

“Yesterday a member called 0800 FARMING to alert us to a guy doing the rounds in Taranaki who may be gaming employment laws,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Employment spokesperson.

“He appeared to be a keen farmworker but became insistent that all he needed to start was a handshake. This guy even told the couple concerned that he could see they were under pressure so even offered to pitch his tent.

“They did exactly the right thing by getting him to sign Federated Farmers’ industry standard employment contract before starting. That’s where the bush lawyer emerged as he tried to get clauses modified.

“Lucky for them they stuck to their guns and to Federated Farmers agreement and advice. As it turns it wasn’t a long employment relationship lasting a mere 4.5 days.

“On the very first day there was a major argument over helmet use where he refused to wear one. He turned up to work another day wearing a balaclava asking if, “it intimidated them.”

“Along with a generally unhelpful demeanour it appeared to our member that he was trying to bait them into a summary dismissal.

“They called Federated Farmers 0800 327 646 advice line and followed that advice to the letter dismissing the person under the 90-days provision. His parting shot was “it’s going to cost you.”

“It shouldn’t because they stuck to the law and to Federated Farmers’ advice and contract. No matter how small or short term the role is, never “shake on it” or allow a person to start work before they have signed their employment contract.

“What concerns us is that there are bush lawyers out there who could be looking to game employment laws in order to secure a settlement from unwitting farm employers. Our member wanted this publicised to prevent other farmers from being caught out.

“It is why the 90-days provision is so important and why it would become a feeding frenzy for such people if it were to be axed.

“The 90-days provision is a crucial protection for employers to prevent them from being stuck with unscrupulous workers. Our member told us their last employee only left after four years in order to go sharemilking.

“They were fine because they had systems in place backed up by Federated Farmers’ employment contracts and member advice. If you haven’t got your systems together you seriously risk an employment law shellacking,” Mr Hoggard warned.

Labour and the unions always promote the worker as the weaker one in the employer-employee relationship.

But it is very difficult to get rid of a worker who isn’t working out and it’s not just the business that suffers as a result of that, it’s other staff when the dud worker poisons the workplace.

 


All public prisons to be full working prisons

September 11, 2014

All public prisons in New Zealand will become full working prisons by 2017, and ex-prisoners will receive post-release drug addiction treatment if National is returned to government, says Corrections Spokesperson Anne Tolley.

“The National-led Government has revolutionised the approach to offender rehabilitation to reduce reoffending rates and ensure there are fewer victims of crime,” says Mrs Tolley.

“By expanding the working prisons model from three to 16 prisons, every eligible prisoner will have a structured 40 hour-a-week timetable to include work experience, skills training and education, alongside drug and alcohol treatment and other rehabilitation programmes.  This will give them the skills they need to live a crime-free life outside prison.

“The vast majority of prisoners don’t want to be sitting around in their cells doing nothing. The working prisons model gives them the opportunity to learn good habits and take responsibility for their lives. And after a decent day’s work they are also more manageable for prison staff.” 

The working prisons expansion will not require additional funding, and can be established through reprioritisation of resources.

“Our focus on rehabilitation and reintegration will also be further strengthened by a new post-release specialist addiction treatment programme for prisoners, so support continues in the community when offenders are at risk of returning to drugs and alcohol, which we know are major drivers of crime,” says Mrs Tolley.

Offenders who have taken part in intensive residential drug treatment unit programmes while inside prison, who are on parole or released on conditions, will be required to attend specialist drug and alcohol addiction aftercare programmes once released.

This will be introduced for up to 1,000 offenders each year, at an estimated cost of up to $6 million a year.

“We don’t want offenders returning to their old ways and creating more victims when they are released,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Places on addiction treatment programmes have increased by 1500 per cent since 2008. We don’t want this excellent work undone on release, which we know can be a difficult time for offenders.

“For those who need continued support, the new aftercare programmes will provide the help they need to keep them away from substances.

“This will reduce their chances of recidivism, as we progress towards our Better Public Services target of a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017.

“The expansion of working prisons and the introduction of aftercare programmes will also help National achieve its new target of reducing crime by 20 per cent by 2017,” says Mrs Tolley.

This policy will help rehabilitate prisoners, equip them for work when they are released and by doing so reduce re-offending.

 

National will make every prison a fully working prison by 2017. This will give prisoners the opportunity to learn new skills and take responsibility for their lives. ntnl.org.nz/1Ax0kFX #Working4NZ


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September 10, 2014


Fool’s Paradise

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Photo: David Cunliffe wants to hike the minimum wage - it's cynical politics and bad economics. Here's the reality. #keyvcunliffe


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