The Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

has had pulled from the ballot his Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is:

to repeal section 97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Section 97 prevents the use of volunteers, contractors, or other casual employees by an employer during a strike or lockout

His rationale:

Any employment legislation needs to provide a balance between employers and employees to be fair. Section 97 creates an imbalance by providing with a significant legislative advantage during negotiations. The restrictions placed on employers preventing them from engaging temporary replacement labour to maintain business continuity duringa strike or lockout even extends to family members, volunteers, and willing workers from associated companies that may wish to work within an organisation to maintain business continuity. Restricting the ability of employers to engage temporary replacement labour can have a considerable impact on the productivity and financial viability of an organisation. These restrictions particularly affect the primary production processing industries where production cannot cease without considerable loss to a business.

As far as I’m aware, employees on strike can engage in other work, so it seems only fair employers can do much the same, and use temporary labour to keep revenue flowing. Otherwise a union action can cripple them.

Prior to the enactment of the Employment Relations Act 2000, no equivalent provision existed in any New Zealand employment legislation.

I’ll be interested to see what the situation is in other countries.

I think it is fair to say the the Labour Party will fight this bill with all their might.

UPDATE: It will be interesting to see how parties vote at first reading. We can assume National and ACT will vote in favour, and Labour, Greens and Mana against.

NZ First had this to say when the ERA was passed in 2000:

Part 8 – Clauses 97-111 – Strikes and Lockouts
Under these clauses employees are allowed to strike for a collective agreement, to obtain a multi-employer collective contract, and on the grounds of safety and health.

It prohibits an employer from using replacement labour during a strike but does not prohibit striking workers taking up other employment. This has the potential for a few employees to, in some circumstances, hold the employer, the industry, and sometimes the country, to ransom until their demands are met.

On the basis of their 2000 statement, one would expect they would at least vote for the bill at first reading so it can be considered by a select committee.

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