Political, social, economic and theoretical views have contributed to the development of the New Zealand employment relations. The first Labour government was formed in 1935.
Since the 1930s the relationship between the government and the union leadership have been strong. The government drafted several legislations which show restoration of the old age pensions, the establishment of the minimum wage in the labour market, guaranteeing dairy prices, and building of state housing for workers. The first Labour government enacted the Arbitration and Industrial Conciliation Amendment Act which introduced compulsory unionism for employees and the restoration of the arbitration system in the labour market (Geare, 2000).
Economic and social factors have also contributed to the development of the New Zealand employment relationship. Between the 1950s and 1970s, New Zealand experienced but steady economic growth. The country experienced a high level of unemployment and the slow rise in real wages. Union leaders would not make a lot of demands to protect the rights of their members. However, as the economy improved, union movement grew considerably. They started to demand pay rise for their members leading to numerous labour disputes which resulted in strikes and lockouts (Deeks & Rasmussen, 2002). All through economic and social achievement have been the basis used by union leaders to make new demands to the employers; when the profitability level of a company grow, employees demand pay rise (Deeks & Rasmussen, 2002).
Ideologies and theories such as labour process theory, Corporatism, and strategic choice theory have also contributed to the employment relationship in New Zealand. Generally, the three theories state that an economy needs labour and capital to grow. Considering that New Zealand relies on the production sector, companies tend to focus on increasing their capital while infringing the rights of their employees. Likewise, with industrialization, conflicts arose leading to national movement with the society demanding for employment opportunities in the companies, fair wages, and housing. Such movement was witnessed in New Zealand in the 1930 and contributed to the current stability in the labour market (Geare, 2000).
The Employment Relations Act (ERA) 2000 literary covers all the employees working under contract in New Zealand.
Duties of the employer as listed under ERA are: a) ensuring that the workplace is safe; b) offering employees paid leave; c) avoiding discrimination against the employees; d) proving written agreements to the employees; e) taking responsibility for the actions by the employees as long as such actions are lawful; and f) to convert surveillance by the use of cameras and other methods as long as it is done as prescribed under the law (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
On the other hand, the employees have the following roles and responsibilities as stipulated under ERA. They are; a) be ready to work by willingly performing the duties specified in the written employment agreement; b) Obeying instructions from the employer or his/ her representatives as far as they are lawful; c) Refusing to perform dangerous assignments; d) Performing overtime works as long as they are listed under the employment contract; e) avoid misconducts while at work; f) ensure that the workplace is safe; g) show fidelity; and h) take care of the employer’s property and equipment (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
Other acts under the New Zealand employment legislation are;
i) The Holidays Act 2003 state that employees have a right to paid sick leave, bereavement leave, and annual leave.
ii) The Wage Protection Act 1983 states that employees cannot control how an employee spends his wage.
iii) The Minimum Wage Act 1983 offers a minimum wage that should be paid to the employees. The act also provides a weekly working hour of 40 hours.
iv) Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 which states that employees should provide for paid and unpaid parental leaves.
v) Equal Pay Act 1972 states that employees performing similar duties should be offered equal pay irrespective of their sex.
vi) Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 states that employees and anyone at the workplace are responsible for safety and health.
vii) Human Rights Act 1993 states that employees cannot be discriminated on the basis of their race, age or sex.
viii) Privacy Act 1993 states that an employer can collect, store and use employees information for the purposes captured in the employment contract.
ix) Protected Disclosure Act 2000 offers protection for the employees who disclose information on the unlawful wrongdoing being carried out by their employers.
The mechanism for individual and collective bargaining is captured under section 54(3) of the Employment Relations Act. The primary mechanism of resolving labour disputes or conducting individual and collective bargaining in through mediation. Mediation is a most preferred process of collective and individual bargaining because it is mutually satisfactory, creative and fast. Parties can still maintain a normal relationship after mediation because it preserves and mends frayed relationship at the workplace (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
The definition and legality of strike and lockout are addressed under part 8 of the Employment Relationship Act 2000. Strike is defined as, “the act of a number of employees who are or have been in the employment of the same employer or of different employers discontinue their employment wholly or partially” (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
On the other hand, the lockout is defined as, “a temporary work stoppage or denial of employment initiated by the employer during a labour dispute” (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
A strike or lockout is deemed to be legal if it does not fall under section 86 which address unlawful strike or lockout. Likewise, a strike or lockout can as well be legal on safety grounds. Where a trade union of the employer has reasonable safety grounds to believe that a strike or lockout justified, then the action has a legal backing (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
Under the ERA at 2000 good faith describes an acceptable relationship between the employee (union) and the employee when resolving a labour dispute through a negotiated collective bargaining agreement. According to part 8 of the Act, the two parties are supposed to deal openly, honestly and not mislead each other. Good faith requires the union and the employer to remain constructive and active to establish and maintain a productive relationship (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
In New Zealand, the Employment Authority is established under the Department of Labour. According to ERA act 2000, State institution plays several roles in the employment relationship. One of such roles is resolving employment disputes. In case mediation fails to resolve the dispute, the case is then forwarded to the Employment Relationship Authority (Employment New Zealand, 2003).
Other state institutions such as the police and the judiciary can be directly involved in the employment relationship. For instance, the police might be called upon to restore calm when chaos break during labour disputes. Likewise, labour courts conduct the arbitration in case of a labour dispute.
The Labour Inspector has a responsibility to ensure that labour Acts or their provisions have been fully complied with. Likewise, the officer has to employ necessary steps to monitor and enforce compliance with the established employment standards (Employment New Zealand, 2003).