The Minister driving legislation aimed at shaking up New Zealand’s employment rules says opposition from the country’s largest business lobby group is “overblown.”
Workplace Relations Minister Ian Lees-Galloway – who’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill wrapped up public submissions on Thursday – says he’s not concerned with BusinessNZ’s position.
But he is singing a different tune to the Employment Minister Willie Jackson, who says the group's opposition to the bill should be a concern for the Government.
In its submission to the Education and Workplace Select Committee, BusinessNZ - unsurprisingly - came out against the Bill.
It cites issues around increased complexities and processes that will result in higher compliance costs for businesses, suggesting the legislation could inhibit economic growth.
These include restricting the 90-day work trial rule so it only applies to businesses with fewer than 20 employees and imposing statutory times for staff meal and rest breaks – the latter, BusinessNZ says, will remove flexibility and reduce productivity.
National MP Scott Simpson says the Government should be very concerned that BusinessNZ is against this bill.
“BusinessNZ is a credible voice for New Zealand business, that’s what they do – they’re not known for exaggerating or gilding the lily in terms of their criticism of the legislation.”
But Lees-Galloway says BusinessNZ’s opposition to the bill is nothing new.
The lobby group has been expressing its concerns about the proposed changes since they were first mooted before the election.
“To be perfectly honest, I have read some of what they have had to say and I think it’s somewhat overblown,” Lees-Galloway says, using the example of a paragraph within the submission which he says suggests the Bill would result in compulsory unionism.
However, earlier on Tuesday Jackson said it was concerning that BusinessNZ opposed the Bill.
But when pressed for more details as to why Jackson did not answer further questions and walked away from media before Labour’s Caucus meeting.
Later in the day, he clarified that he and Lees-Galloway were not on different pages over the issue and his concern came on a “personal level.”
“At a government level, there is not a huge concern here because we have to get on with business.
“We’re disappointed they’re disappointed but we want to work hand in hand with them because it’s about creating an economy for everyone.”