PM’s answers inconsistent with employment bill

 9 August 2018

Statements that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made in the House yesterday on proposed employment law changes are inconsistent with the language in the Bill that went to select committee.

Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says under current law union representatives are able to enter any workplace to talk to any employee if they are on union business, which includes recruitment and giving information about union membership.

“A controversial aspect of the new Bill is that it removes the need for union representatives to notify the employer and seek their permission.

But in Question Time in the Parliament yesterday, Ms Ardern said the access without the employer’s permission would only apply if the union rep was talking to union members.

“That’s a key difference for farmers, especially when the ‘workplace’ might well be our farmhouses,” Chris says.

“We prefer the current law, where union reps let the farmer know they intend coming. Consent at a convenient time for the farm operations is highly unlikely not to be granted.  Besides it’s just common courtesy to ask.

“In fact there are protections already in law that deny business owners the right to unreasonably restrict access.”

Chris says there are significant personal safety and biosecurity risks when strangers come onto farm properties unannounced and unauthorised. 

“Farms can be very extensive and what happens when no-one knows that a visitor has got lost way out the back of the property and night is falling?”

That the new bill would allow union reps unannounced access to workers - in other words they could come onto a farm and wander into the busy milking or shearing shed with the purpose of recruiting new union members - takes the disruption and discourtesy a step further.

“We hope that the select committee is looking at changes that limit contact to union members but regardless, consent should be obtained prior to entry onto the farm by any union representative.”