KEITH LOCKE (Green)
I think that the commencement date should be put out several years.
: For a century.
: No, I think 10 years would probably be a good start. I say that because I think the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill itself offends basic rights. There was a discussion previously on the title, which unfortunately the Green Party did not get a call on.
Hon Tau Henare
: You weren’t here.
: I was here.
It is an unbalanced bill. It talks about workers’ secret ballots for strikes, but does not take into account the other side of the industrial equation—that employers should also, if there is going to be a secret ballot, have a secret ballot, as is proposed in a further amendment that we will be discussing later, whereby shareholders should be balloted secretly before they lock out workers, because there is equality in the Employment Relations Act on strikes and lockouts in that respect.
I think the commencement date should be put out for 10 years, because, if we look at the justice of it, why should the State control voluntary organisations. That is what this is about. In spite of National members talking about freedom and nanny State and all the rest of it—all of the things they have talked about over the years—this is the ultimate nanny State: the State is controlling such an intimate thing as how people in a voluntary organisation can decide collectively whether they should go on strike. That should not be the role of the State. In fact, let us look at the practicalities of the situation. I have been in several situations where there have been strikes. Sometimes there have been secret ballots and that has been very good. Sometimes it has been impractical to have secret ballots. That is the situation and that is the way submissions went to the select committee. The Service and Food Workers Union and, I think, the Unite union, put across the idea that in some of the industries they organise such as fast food outlets and whatnot, it is impractical to have a secret ballot, so it should not be in law. The Green Party completely opposes this provision being in law. It is impractical and will act against the interests of unions. Also, as was mentioned in some of the previous discussion, it will allow, because it is in statute law, employers to try to trip up workers all the time. They can say: “Well, this person didn’t get a note, and this worker didn’t get a notice of the secret ballot.”—because they might have shifted address or something—and hold up the strike action of the union concerned until that is all sorted out in a court. Because the employers always have more money than unions, they can also bankrupt the unions by dragging them through repeated court proceedings about whether a strike ballot was properly implemented. This is highly prejudiced against one side of the industrial disputes—that is, the workers—so putting the implementation of this bill out for 10 years would give us time to think about it. It would give time for members of this Parliament to go down to workplaces to talk to workers, go into fast food outlets, talk to the Unite union, talk to the Service and Food Workers Union, and talk to employers about whether they want to have an imposition on them of all their shareholders having a secret ballot before they lock out, as might be the case if Darien Fenton’s amendment is passed under clause 4. There is still water to go under the bridge and I think that 10 years’ worth of water going under the bridge would be quite good.