Employment law change boon for bosses

Last updated 12:00 01/11/2014

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Earlier this week we suggested that if you say or read something enough times it can begin to take on the shiny veneer of reality.

OPINION: ‘Flexibility' in business is another of those words or phrases that can be repeated over and over again, to the point that they become either dulled by mind-numbing repetition or take on a tantric-chant quality for those seeking an elusive high. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, of course.

The notion of flexibility was wheeled out once more when the Government passed its Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which includes, among other things, provisions removing the statutory right to meal breaks and smokos, and allowing bosses to walk away from negotiations on collective agreements.

National's Jonathan Young said the legislation would give both employers and their employees the flexibility to work out what was best for them. But it's clear from the new law that it will be the boss rather than the worker who will enjoy more of the benefits of this so-called flexibility.

What has also been interesting about this week, and the lead-up to the passing of the law, has been the publication of other stories about the plight of the modern worker.

Two recent surveys have suggested that more and more employees are anxious about the future of their jobs and that a significant portion are unhappy as well.

Clearly they are not enjoying the benefits of flexibility, a feeling that is not likely to be assuaged by the latest legislation. One wonders whether businesses, abetted here by the Government, are really following the right path if they wish to increase productivity.

If workers are already feeling vulnerable and unhappy in their employment, will the undermining of their rights make them work harder, produce more?

There's an international context here as well. The global recession has lingered this long partly because of the money that was stripped from the system in lost jobs and slashed wages. That has also increased the burden on governments having to support those newly unemployed and vulnerable. And all the while the gulf between rich and poor, have and have-nots, has grown.

If we are to ever emerge from the quagmire the global financial recession has become, and what International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde has labelled the lost decade, it will not be by keeping a significant portion of the global customer base poor and unable to contribute to a prospering economy.

Employers and the business lobby groups that represent them often make the mistake of thinking workers are motivated almost solely by the back pocket. But plenty of research suggests that remuneration is just one of many considerations for an employee; often it's quite far down the list of priorities.

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Workers want a job where they feel valued and that they are doing something important, even if the task seems menial. And they want bosses who value their contribution.

That's good for business, isn't it?

- Manawatu Standard

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