Cabinet will today consider changes to labour laws including the future of a controversial provision protecting vulnerable workers when their work or job is restructured.
The changes will be included in wider reforms signalled by Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson in May which include allowing employers to walk away from collective bargaining, opt out of multi-employer negotiations, deduct the pay of partially striking workers and initiate collective bargaining.
Workers will be able to ask for flexible work arrangements without having to wait until they have been employed for six months.
Labour claims the changes will drive down wages.
It is understood Cabinet will today consider the Government's response to a review of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.
The provision, introduced by the former Labour government, provides ''continuity of employment'' for groups of low-paid employees such as cleaners when a business is restructured. It prevents workers having their pay and conditions reduced for the same job, or being replaced by cheaper contractors.
Labour's industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton said she was concerned the Government would limit the provision to large workplaces.
''It would exclude all the vulnerable workers in small work places. The cleaning industry is mainly small work places, apart from institutions such as hospitals. There are not many workplaces that have more than half a dozen cleaners.''
The wider changes to labour laws would drive down wages, particularly in low paid jobs, because thousands of New Zealanders relied on collective bargaining to gain improvements to their salaries and conditions, she said.
Many more non-unionised workers also relied on collective bargaining because it set the standards for their negotiations.
Commercial cleaning company Crest Cleaning has lobbied the Government hard to scrap Part 6A, calling the provision a ''roadblock'' for the industry.
Crest has this year been forced to pay an Auckland couple more than $14,000 and a Nelson cleaner nearly $5000 after losing cases over Part 6A in the Employment Court.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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