90-day worker trials to be extended
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By MARTIN KAY Last updated 19:23 15/07/2010

The Government is poised to extend the 90-day probation period to all workers starting a new job as part of a major shake-up of labour laws.

Other changes expected to be unveiled at National's annual conference this weekend include curbing union access to workplaces by requiring them to first gain consent from employers.

The Government signalled in March that it wanted to extend the 90-day probation period, which allows employers to dismiss new workers within the first three months without fear of a personal grievance, except in cases of sexual, racial or other discrimination.

At present, the provision can be used only by companies with fewer that 20 employees, though a discussion document from Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson in March floated the idea of increasing that to 49 workers.

One News reported tonight that the Government was set to broaden this further to include all workplaces.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed there would be an announcement on labour laws at the conference, and did not rule out an extension to the 90-day scheme. He refused to give further details.

But Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said Mr Key had confirmed to her this week that one change included requiring unions to get permission from employers before entering workplaces.

The CTU was outraged by the plan. Although it was part of National's 2008 election policy, she said Mr Key had promised to consult unions before moving to implement it.

"It's an absolutely fundamental international right for unions to access workplaces.

"Union membership is voluntary in New Zealand and the right to access workplaces is essential for efficient union operations. To make union access subject to employer agreement will hinder the ability of workers to have a voice at work, but also create unnecessary conflict between unions and employers."

She said the CTU would also resist any extension of the 90-day scheme.

From here.