Employment Relations New Zealand

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Introduction 

Employment relations deals with the practices and theories applied in the regulation and management of employment relationships between employers and employees in the workplace setting. These relations and employment regularity systems seek to promote relationships in the workplace that are not only productive but also beneficial to both employees and their employers. Employment Relations is described as the study of all aspects regarding people at the workplace, factors that birth conflict and resolution in industrial environments, regulations on employment, activities of labour (both individual and collective), and behavioural relationships, all is aspects of employment relationships in any given workplace. New Zealand, like any other country, identified with employment relations and a regulatory system for employment standards and their importance cannot be overemphasised since for progress to be realized employees and their employers have to exist in a standard environment that regulates how they relate and how employees are remunerated. The different political parties represented in New Zealand’s current parliament identify with different political ideologies and proposal regarding employment relations. These ideologies, political parties believe, affect the decisions citizens make in the elections and to have a better chance at victory, these parties draft proposals that they feel can make the New Zealand society a better place. One such party is the New Zealand Labour Party (herein referred to as Labour Party). This essay provides a detailed overview of the political ideology of the Labour Party and details the party’s proposal in as far as Employment Relations is concerned by identifying key elements their policy. 

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The Labour Party 

The Labour Party, commonly referred to as just ‘Labour’ is a center-left political party and is the historic rival to the New Zealand National Party. According to the party’s platform programme, its founding principle is described as democratic socialism. On the other hand, observers describe the party as social-democratic and pragmatic in as far as practice is concerned. Formed in 1916, the Labour Party was made up of trade unions and several socialist parties and today stands as the oldest political party in New Zealand that is still in existence. At its inception in 1916, the party’s policy objectives publicly asked for the socialization of business that is the means of production, distribution and change. This included the state ownership of various major parts of the New Zealand economy. Today, from the Labour Party website, the party’s stands for several socialist aspects including co-operation rather than competition, social justice, preservation of publicly owned assets, excellent health care, educational opportunities for all, and the fair distribution of wealth in the society. 

Labour Party on Employment Relations compared to National Party

The Labour Party has over the years presented proposals that significantly touched on employment relations of the country and the legislation governing employment relations. These proposals are normally different compared to other parties, including its historic rival party – National Party. In 1999, the party presented its proposal with several aspects in mind. First, it promised to repeal the Employment Contract Act (ECA) and maintained that organizations and companies in New Zealand could not replace or fire striking workers. The party also maintained that there would be no compulsory unionism, compulsory arbitration sympathy strikes or national awards. The new coalition government formed by Labour and Alliance parties in 1999 also sought to counter free-market policies. The coalition government set in 1999 brought in an alterative ideological base which had damehoods and knighthoods abolished. Additional changes included a promise for yearly increases in the national minimum wage and worker participation stipulated in the Healthy and Safety in Employment Amendment Act 2002.  On the other hand, in as far as industrial relations were concerned, the National Party sought to retain the Employment Contract Act (ECA). This was an indicator of the differences between these two rivals as while one sought to repeal it, the other wanted to retain it. 

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In 2002, the Labour Party promised to encourage and foster collective bargaining deals between employees and their employers. In addition, the party would ensure that in cases where businesses transferred, its employees would be subjected to no less favourable conditions as their previous locations. Lastly, the party would establish an employment and equity office as well as an employment rights unit. On the other hand, the National Party in the same period would retain the ERA framework but would make substantial amendments to fit the lives and interests of workers. The government would also make a return of fixed terms, remove reinstatement, curb the access of unions and provide an environment for competitive insurance and fair bargaining in industrial relations. 

In 2005, the Labour Party would extend the promises the party made in 2002 to encourage and foster collective bargaining processes, ensuring that in cases where businesses transferred, its employees would be subjected to no less favourable conditions as their previous locations and the establishment of an employment and equity office as well as an employment rights unit. On the other hand, the National Party came up with new proposals as they sought office. The party would introduce the Overhaul Holidays Act. The party would also reduce business compliance costs to encourage business activity and limit union access to workplaces. Lastly, the National Party would eliminate monopoly bargaining rights of unions over collective agreements. 

In the wake of the 2017 General Election, the two parties also identified with a significant lot of proposals in party policies related to employment relations. 

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  1. Gustafson, B. (2013). Labour’s path to political independence: Origins and establishment of the New Zealand Labour Party, 1900-19. Auckland University Press.
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