6 Jun 2013

Employment law changes pass first reading

2:26 pm on 6 June 2013

Employment law changes which the Government says will improve fairness and flexibility in the workplace have passed their first reading in Parliament.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill passed its first reading on Wednesday by 61 votes to 58, with the support of National, Act and United Future.

The bill removes the obligation on workers and employers to reach a collective contract, allows for partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action and no longer requires workers to be covered by collective agreements for their first 30 days in a new job.

The Nurses Organisation says the bill would drive down working conditions in hospitals and put patients at risk.

A delegate, Erin Kennedy, says allowing employers to opt out of negotiations would provide them with the means to drive wages and conditions down, as would removing the requirement for minimum breaks.

Ms Kennedy says working longers hours without breaks could affect nurses when performing tasks like giving out medication.

The Government says the changes will still protect key workers' rights, while giving employers the freedom to compete and expand, resulting in more jobs.