Assessment of Changes in New Zealand Employment Policy Since 1984

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Historically New Zealand has had an industrial relations system based on principles of collective bargaining, with union and employer representatives negotiating minimum employment terms and conditions. The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1894 established principles of; wage fixing through conciliation and arbitration; multi-employer awards; blanket coverage of conditions; compulsory union membership; and compulsory arbitration. This system served New Zealand for almost a century with only minor changes. However, during the 1980’s and 1990’s a governmenta impetus towards market oriented policies resulted in legislation that meant a major shakeup and reorganisation with industrial relations.The Industrial Relations Act 1987,…show more content…
Yet while the Act made changes to some aspects of existing industrial relations legislation it was viewed by some as too dilute (Boxall, 1991). The issue of wage-fixing was one that employers groups felt held back productivity in industry by giving workers groups the upper hand. The Act attempted to address this by allowing for and promoting enterprise bargaining, however success was limited. Similarly attempts to ‘rationalise’ the bargaining process though the introduction of single-set negotiations did not have the intended result (ibid). There was a general agreement that the measures of the Labour Relations Act were minimal in their success and that progress was neither widespread or swift enough (ibid). However, the impact of governmental decentralisation policies were more dramatically felt in the public sector by the introduction of the State Sector Act 1988. Until this period two separate industrial relations systems had been operating – one for the private sector which involved conciliation and arbitration; while the public sector had a system of pay fixing based comparatively with the private sector. Where the State Owned Enterprise Act had thrust state institutions into the marketplace, the State Sector Act had the same effect upon public employees. Across the board annual adjustments to state pay rates disappeared, as did the previous criteria for state-public pay equity. Departmental pay agreements were replaced by occupational pay agreements.

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