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The progress of Ports of Auckland negotiations is a testimony to the determination of the ports workers and the success of formal facilitation under the Employment Relations Act, says Darien Fenton, Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Issues.
“Yet the Minister of Labour continues to ignore departmental advice to make facilitation accessible in more disputes,” Darien Fenton said.
“Labour supported ports workers in their battle against the casualisation of their jobs through contracting out and it is pleasing that the parties are closer to settlement. This shows the effectiveness of the facilitation procedures under the Employment Relations Act.
“While the current Employment Relations Act provides a facilitation process that enables parties to seek the assistance of the Employment Relations Authority in resolving difficulties in collective bargaining and protracted disputes, only 22 successful applications for facilitation were accepted between 2006 and 2010.
“The Department of Labour, in its recent advice to the Minister of Labour around employment law reforms, proposed that the threshold for facilitation be lowered to enable more workers and employers to conclude bargaining through facilitation.
“The current grounds for facilitation are very high and lowering the threshold might see fewer protracted disputes of the nature we have seen this year.
“Unfortunately, the Minister of Labour ignored this advice and is sticking to her fixed proposals to weaken collective bargaining rights and undermine any balance in employment relationships.
“While Kate Wilkinson continues to talk about fairness and balance, she has ignored a very sensible proposal from her own officials, that would improve efficiency and costs, enhance productive employment relationships and ensure collective agreements had a better chance of being concluded,” Darien Fenton said.