Calls for law change to address worker exploitation

Workers are picketing labour-hire companies in South Auckland calling for legal reform

Calls for law change to address worker exploitation

Workers have begun picketing labour-hire companies in South Auckland, calling for changes to business practices and legal reform to prevent worker exploitation.

Industrial heavyweight First Union is arguing that for many labour-hire workers job security is an issue because start and end dates are not detailed in their contracts, nor is the rate of pay, type of work, or hours.

According to the union, labour-hire workers typically include mothers returning to work after having children, young people who’ve just finished secondary school, and recent migrants.

Among a series of claims, the more serious allegations include requests for sexual acts in exchange for permanent employment and termination upon notification of pregnancy.

Labour-hire workers are almost always on minimum wage and typically work in distribution centres.

First Union is asking the government to allow workers the right to elect permanent employment with the host company where an assignment is for an indefinite period. This is similar to what currently exists for fixed term employees.

The following is First Union’s executive summary included in its submission on the Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Bill:

In particular, the union believes the following four amendments will deal with the loopholes without impacting genuine labour hire situations:

1. The Bill should be extended to allow labour-hire workers to elect the host company as their employer if their employment is for an unlimited duration.

2. The union believes that when a labour hire worker commences working on a site where a collective agreement is present, the worker should be automatically covered by the terms and conditions of the most advantageous collective, which covers the work they are performing.

3. The worker should be able to automatically join the host employer as a party to the personal grievance, rather than having to apply to the Employment Relations Authority.

4. The language and definitions used in the current Bill have the potential to create confusion in certain scenarios.

The majority of labour-hire companies are “not operating ethically”, and are pushing the laws to the limits, according to Jarrod Abbott, First Union transport logistics and manufacturing secretary.

“They rely on the fact workers are desperate for work to avoid the risk of workers seeking legal remedies, he said.

“These companies offer employment with almost no protections for workers, and almost always with contracts that do not comply with our current legislation.”

 

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