18 Apr 2018 By Bridget O'Connell
The government’s proposed employment law changes have been labelled a “barrier to employment” and “totally impractical” by the tourism industry.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa has said abolishing the 90-day trial period and stipulating specific times for rest breaks is impractical for tourism employers.
The industry association is calling on the government to review those provisions in the Bill proposing amendments to the Employment Relations Act.
These calls have been supported by the National party which said that the “tourism sector has rightly put its hand up and said these reforms will make it harder to sustain and grow the sector.”
The Bill proposes that only employers with 20 or fewer employees will be able to include a 90-day trial period in employment contracts.
TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said: “With the 90-day trial period, employers have some security that they will not be stuck with an employee who is not right for them.
“Without it, employers lose that safety net, and may be less likely to take on inexperienced employees.”
“Anyone who works with young people who have just left school or graduated from university, or beneficiaries returning to the workforce, knows that all they want is their chance to show an employer what they can do. This Bill could deny them that.”
Roberts added: “Government wants to get New Zealanders into work and we wholeheartedly support any approach that enables this. Taking away the 90-day trial period is a barrier to employment when we need enablers.”
Roberts says that tourism operators are concerned by the Bill’s clauses stipulating when rest and meal breaks should be taken.
Employees who cannot agree on a time for rest and meal breaks with their employers will have the right to take rest breaks exactly ‘halfway’ through the morning and the afternoon, and have their meal break exactly ‘in the middle’ of the day.
“This is totally impractical for many in the tourism industry. At present, many tourism operators rotate staff so that at one time some employees are on duty while others can take their break.
“If all employees commencing shift at the same time have to take their breaks at the same time we won’t be able to offer the same levels of service to our visitors.
Roberts is urging the Government to consult with the industry on how best to protect tourism employees while ensuring visitors receive world-class service.
“We could not agree more with the Workplace Relations Minister that ‘good employment law strikes a balance between employers and workers’.
“It’s just that what is being proposed now is not a balance, and it will be bad for both employers and workers.”
National’s tourism spokesperson Todd McClay and workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson said that the changes will cause significant problems for New Zealand’s tourism industry.
“This is a sector made up of a huge variety of businesses that are busy at different times of the day and different days of the week. Requiring everyone to down tools at the same time is impractical for a service sector dealing with international visitors.
“It’s also telling that the tourism industry identifies that the 90-day trial changes will work in exactly the opposite direction than the Government intends,” Simpson said.
“This sector, which employs over 8% of New Zealanders, is known for taking on young and new workers and giving them their first jobs. Surely that’s what the Government wants.
“When tourism operators say the law change will make it riskier and less likely for them operators to take a chance on people on the fringe of the workforce, they should be listened to.
“The test will be whether the Government chooses to listen, or whether they have decided they’ll ram these changes through regardless of whether they are good for our country and our workers.”
“The tourism sector is the largest export industry in New Zealand and it’s made up of a huge numbers of mostly small businesses,” McClay said.
“If they haven’t earned the right to have their concerns acted on by central Government, then who has?”
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