New Law Restores Some Union Muscle In New Zealand

By Edwin Whenmouth New Zealand's Parliament has passed a new labor law, the Employment Relations Act, which gives labor unions a bigger role in industrial relations than they have enjoyed for almost 10 years. The new law is based on the principle that both sides must negotiate "in good faith," which will be adjudicated by the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court. Although union membership remains voluntary, the new law stipulates that only unions can negotiate collective agreements, and it obliges employers to reveal corporate information at the request of unions, although a mutually acceptable neutral party can be called in to decide if certain information is too sensitive to be released. Union representatives are given the right to enter business premises for recruitment purposes, as long as they do so at a reasonable time and with regard to the operation of the business. Employers must allow unionized workers time off with pay for up to two, one-hour union meetings per year. The act forbids employers from hiring other people to replace striking workers, but it also outlaws any strike action within less than 40 days of the start of bargaining, as well as strikes for any political cause or in sympathy with workers in another company.

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