After 12 months - the ERA achieves its objectives

  • Margaret Wilson
Labour

The Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson says an Employment Relations Service report on the first 12 months of the Employment Relations Act shows that it is a balanced and practical piece of legislation, supporting good relationships in the workplace.

Margaret Wilson says the report shows:

  • The ERA is easy to work with: Despite the newness of the Act, and enhanced publicity there has been only a 9% increase in inquiries to the Employment Relationship Service over the last year of the ECA. This shows that the ERA has been easily understood and that employers, managers, employees and unions are operating under it successfully.
  • The Mediation Service is free, fast and fair: The Mediation Service received 6,768 requests for mediation assistance. Applications to the Service ranged per month from a minimum of 256 in October 2000 to a maximum of 702 in May 2001. Less than one in seven cases is recorded as “not settled”. Most cases are completed within 6 weeks. 89% of clients responding were either satisfied or very satisfied with the Service’s handling of their issue.
  • The Employment Relations Authority is handling cases efficiently with little delay: The Authority completed 722 applications. During the period, the Authority also referred or directed 593 applications to mediation.
  • Unions now have legal standing again: The Registrar of Unions received 166 applications for union registration as at 30 September 2001 and registered 159 unions. Legislation subsequent to a Court of Appeal ruling on union registration is now before a select committee.
  • Union membership is increasing under the ERA: Union membership totals 319,660 employees, representing 22.1% of wage and salary earners, and 17.7% of the total employed labour force. A recent study by Raymond Harbridge reported union membership figures as at 31 December 2000 to be 318,519, an increase of 16,114 (5.3%) over the course of a year. The figures produced by the Registrar of Unions equate to an increase of 1141 (0.36%) in the 2 months following this study, confirming the upward trend in union membership.
  • Satisfaction at mediation and before the Authority has seen few cases reach the Employment Court: The Court received 78 applications under the Employment Relations Act – 47% in Auckland, 11% in Christchurch and 42% in Wellington.

“The hysteria over the new law is now recalled only as a failed political campaign,” said Margaret Wilson There is general approval of the ERA from the public, business and unions. Even the National Party has now indicated support for the concepts of good faith and legal provision for unions. The consensus is growing as the new law proves itself in New Zealand workplaces”.

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