2016 news

Read news releases and research updates from CLEW in 2016.

CLEW'd IN Newsletters 2016

2016 Labour, Employment and Work Conference big success

Overview by Stephen Blumenfeld, Director, CLEW

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near Hanmer Springs, South Island at 12.02am on 14th November 2016, followed by a series of aftershocks. The shaking was felt across the country, and has resulted in damage to a number of buildings within the Wellington region, including Rutherford House, the intended venue for the 2016 Labour, Employment and Work Conference. Despite this occurring just two weeks out from its opening, the Conference was relocated to the Hunter Building on the (main) Kelburn Campus of Victoria University and proceeded as planned with a full programme of keynote addresses and paper presentations.

Close to 100 people attended the two-day LEW Conference, and there was general consensus among those in attendance that the papers presented were of a high standard.

Outstanding workplace award reconsiders corporate social responsibility

Esme Cleave, Honours Student, School of Management

One of the surprising things about prizes, awards and recognition for socially responsible employers is that many involve elite knowledge workers and, if they do involve vulnerable workers, they often seem insincere. This raises the question of whether socially responsible employers receive adequate recognition, and those who appear to be socially responsible, but aren’t, are rewarded unjustifiably. Good work benefits all employers and employees, especially workers in contingent, potentially precarious, employment arrangements. The Human Resources Institute of New Zealand has addressed this issue in their new Outstanding Workplace Award which aims to reward good employers – at all ends of the labour market – for good employment practices.

Precarious work at odds with corporate social responsibility

Esme Cleave, Honours Student, School of Management

There are two current trends in employment. The first is the use of contingent and often precarious work arrangements. This is efficient and convenient for employers, but often unsatisfactory for workers. The second is an increasing emphasis on employer branding and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reflected in discussion about triple bottom line reporting, international standard-setting and other ethical and brand management initiatives. The two different approaches of US companies, Costco and Sam’s Clubs illustrate the benefits of extending corporate social responsibility to your employees.

LEGAL UPDATE: Seasonal workers’ rights continue under collective agreement

Peter Kiely, Partner, Kiely Thompson, Caisley

On 6 October 2016 the Court of Appeal released its decision (NZCA 482) in AFFCO’s appeal of the Employment Court judgment holding that AFFCO had unlawfully locked out union members and breached good faith. (NZEmpC 204)

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the Employment Court that the employees were engaged on indefinite employment agreements which were not terminated between killing seasons but agreed that they had been unlawfully locked out.

Survey of Public Sector Employees released

In 2016 CLEW partnered with the NZ Public Service Association (PSA) in a major survey of its members, to describe and analyse the status and dynamics of public sector workplaces in New Zealand. A total of 14,125 useable surveys, representing a 25 percent response rate, were included in the analysis.

The report was released at the 2016 Labour, Employment and Work Conference and is now available on our website along with Dr Geoff Plimmer’s summary of the report as presented at the launch. A future edition of CLEW’d IN will include a discussion by Geoff, co-author of the report, on the key findings from the survey.

Research update: work-life balance experiences: tradespeople in West Australia’s mining industry

Work-life balance (WLB) provision is a major concern for workers seeking relativity between the quality of their working and non-working lives, particularly within environments where work intensity and work hours continues to grow. Typically framed as a white collar worker issue, WLB is of even greater importance for tradespeople with a variety of commuting work arrangements within the Australian mining industry. Mine workers in Western Australia work under different roster models and within dry (no alcohol) sites. How workers in this industry perceive and manage their WLB produced some interesting results.

Work-Life Balance Experiences: Tradespeople in Western Australia’s Mining Industry pdf331KB

Research summary: collective voice, access to training and desired capabilities in New Zealand workplaces

Recent research by CLEW associate Jane Bryson examines the outcome of collective bargaining processes on access to training in order to evaluate the power of collective voice as a mechanism for achieving desired capabilities in the workplace. Analysis of training provisions in the collective employment agreements database is augmented by other publicly available sources of training information in both collectivised and non-collectivised New Zealand organisations.

The surveys and CEAs that have been examined paint a picture of who tends to get most formal training (the more educated), in what sectors or industries (greater in public sector), and the drivers of this profile (professional/occupational competency requirements, government policy, and business need). Where regulatory or occupational pressure is not present CEA training clauses are more often restrictive or non-existent.

The research concludes that voice mechanisms alone (individual and collective) are not enough to ensure a) access to training, or b) negotiation of any values conflict between the organisation and the individual in the pursuit of desired capabilities. Bryson concludes that regulatory pressure will be key to catalysing a culture change in the strategy and practice of New Zealand organisations, particularly in the private sector, with regard to training provision.

BREXIT and what does it mean for work in the UK?

David Coats, Director, WorkMatters Consulting

David Coats has visited New Zealand on a number of occasions and has always provided an interesting perspective on work and the workplace. David is the founder and director of WorkMatters Consulting He is a research fellow at the Smith Institute, a UK think tank founded in memory of former Leader of the Labour Party John Smith, and an associate at the Centre for Public Service Partnerships (CPSP) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU). David is recognised worldwide as an authoritative commentator on employment relations and quality of working life issues.

On his recent visit (in late August), we invited David to speak at a CLEW lunchtime forum on Brexit and the impact on work in the UK.

BREXIT and what does it mean for work in the UK? pdf459KB

New Zealand redundancy provisions in a global context

Dr Stephen Blumenfeld, Director, CLEW

CLEW director Dr Stephen Blumenfeld writes about how New Zealand compares to other OECD countries in strictness of protection for employees facing individual and collective dismissals (the latter being the term OECD uses for redundancies affecting more than one employee). He notes that New Zealand is at the bottom of this league table, reflecting the fact that there are no statutory protections for workers in the event of redundancy. Important in this regard is the fact that most on individual employment agreements are not likely in a position to negotiate better terms and conditions and, hence, any protections in the event of redundancy.

New Zealand Redundancy Provisions in a Global Context pdf374KB

Research update: researching living wage in New Zealand and beyond

Dr Christian Yao, CLEW researcher

Victoria Business School Human Resources lecturer and CLEW researcher Dr Christian Yao is a member of a research team examining pay issues faced by the New Zealand workforce. The team comprises leading New Zealand scholars in the fields of Industrial Relations, Organisational Psychology and Human Resource Management, and includes Professor Jane Parker, Professor Jim Arrowsmith, Professor Stu Carr and Professor Jarrod Harr. Over the past two years, the research team has undertaken national, online surveys of managers and employees in New Zealand workplaces.

One specific sub-project, led by Dr Christian Yao, examines 606 employees' perspectives of pay quality with a relevance to their work capabilities and job satisfaction.

Researching Living Wage in New Zealand and Beyond pdf301KB

Precarious and insecure employment and employer-supported training

Dr Stephen Blumenfeld, Director, CLEW

In addition to enhancing productivity and organisational performance, education and training are known to enrich the skills and, in turn, the employability and earnings of employees. Nevertheless, while skills development is critical to building a productive workforce and achieving sustainable, quality growth, employers’ willingness to fund employees’ education and training varies significantly across the labour market. This study highlights disparities in employer-supported education and training across industries, occupations, and worker demographics in New Zealand. Its findings point to how changes in the nature of employment and working arrangements are likely to impact skills development in the future.

Precarious and Insecure Employment and Employer-supported Training pdf333KB

Research update: the future of the HR profession

Dr Stephen Blumenfeld, Director, Centre for Labour, Employment and Work (CLEW)

In November of last year, while visiting the European Work and Employment Relations Centre (EWERC) at the University of Manchester, I had the opportunity to hear Ian Roper from Middlesex University-London report to the Manchester Industrial Relations Society on findings from a study focusing on the professional nature of human resource management (HRM) in the UK. The research, conducted by Associate Professor Roper, in association with his academic colleagues Dr Paul Higgins and Dr Sophie Gamwell, focuses on what the researchers refer to as ‘four dilemmas’ facing the HRM profession. These are posed as a series of 4 questions which drive this research.

  1. What is the scope for professional discretion?
  2. Is HR being fragmented and does it matter?
  3. Does devolving HR decision-making lose influence for HR?
  4. Who is HRM for?

The Future of the HR Profession pdf2321KB

Employment law issues: reinforcing and enforcing New Zealand’s minimum employment standards

Professor Gordon Anderson, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington

New Zealand labour law remains largely based on the neoliberal proposition that individuals should be free to contract on whatever terms they deem appropriate and that power imbalances are either non-existent or irrelevant. This position is largely reflective of the common law – parties are free to contract on whatever terms they wish and as long as the contract is entered into freely the law should not be concerned with the adequacy of the bargain or its terms. There are of course some protections even at common law – a contract obtained by duress, undue influence or misrepresentation may be held unenforceable and some specific terms such as excessive restraint of trade clauses may be unlawful for reasons of public policy.

In real life of course power relationships are abused and in the absence of legal constraints many workers, especially the more vulnerable, are heavily exploited. Indeed even where there are legal constraints exploitation is far from unusual. In New Zealand protection from exploitation relies on two mechanisms, the legislated minimum employment standards and informed consent to the terms of the employment agreement.

Reinforcing and Enforcing New Zealand’s Minimum Employment Standards pdf195KB

Workplace health and safety issues: the mental health of workers: New Zealand still in need of major reforms

Dawn Duncan, PhD student, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington

The new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is set to commence this month, implementing a major part of the “Working Safer Reform Package.” The reform package expands the scope of legal duties, creates greater powers for the regulator, tougher penalties, and a national target to reduce serious injuries and fatalities.  While these new measures are a step forward, they will do little to address the looming problem of poor worker mental health. Internationally, mental illness is “now the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in most developed countries.” Yet, our health and safety and accident compensation laws are still primarily designed for the “accidents” of 20th century, factories, mines and workshops.

The Mental Health of Workers: New Zealand Still in Need of Major Reforms pdf212KB

Employment law update: zero hour contracts “banned” – the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2016

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2016 (the Amendment Act) came into force on 1 April 2016. This Act originally started life as the Employment Standards Legislation Bill in late 2015 and was introduced to “make workplaces fairer and more productive, for both employers and employees”. The Bill sought to achieve this by amending the law in relation to parental leave, by prohibiting certain employment practices and by strengthening the enforcement of employment standards through a new sanctions regime.

Zero Hour Contracts “Banned” – the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2016 pdf398KB