Contradictory Rights and Unintended Consequences: The Early Impact of the Employment Relations Act on the New Zealand Waterfront
17 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2003
New Zealand's Employment Contracts Act 1991 consigned to history almost 100 years of pervasive state regulation of collective employment relations. Many unions experienced a sharp decline in influence after the introduction of this piece of legislation. The traditional wharfies' union, the Waterfront Workers' Union, is a case in point. Following a decade of neo-liberal industrial relations deregulation, a centre-left Labour/Alliance Coalition repealed the Employment Contracts Act by introducing an Employment Relations Act 2000 designed to redress an 'inherent inequality' in power though the promotion of unionisation and collective bargaining. This article assesses whether this piece of nominally 'union friendly' legislation might forestall attenuation of union influence and casualisation of waterfront employment at New Zealand's ports. We argue that the new legislation contains contradictory union rights that have produced unintended consequences, with the emergence of new forms of employee representation designed specifically to further erode the power of the waterfront industry's established unions.
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