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Union membership in New Zealand

Associate Professor Bill Hodge of the University of Auckland gave a talk to the Remuera Rotary Club last month about union membership in New Zealand – see chart. It is interesting to note the big drop off in public sector and private sector union membership in 1991 and again in 2000 mainly due to the statutes in place:

- Employment Contracts Act – 1991
– Holidays Act and the Employments Relations Act 2000

The above Acts make many guarantees to employees based simply on the status of being in an employment relationship. Those guarantees, or minimum standards, are extended automatically to all employees – eg:

4 weeks’ paid annual holidays, paid statutory holidays or time and a half plus a paid lieu day, paid sick paid, paid bereavement leave, wages protection, minimum wages, parental leave, and especially, protection against arbitrary dismissal by the “unjustifiable dismissal provisions.

Nobody has to join a union to gain those statutory employment rights. Perhaps that may be the most lasting aspect of the Employment Contracts Act 1991, and the irony of a statute, regarded by many as anti-union, having its most lasting contribution to NZ Employment Law the extension of the statutory right against unjustifiable dismissal to all employees.

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