Symposium: The Employment Contracts Act 1991: Introduction



The Employment Contracts Act 1991 is the most controversial piece of labour legislation ever passed in New Zealand. It attracted considerably more opposition than the introduction of compulsory arbitration in 1894. The Act reverses almost a century of legislative development and, in particular, attempts to significantly reduce the central role that collective organizations and union - employer negotiations have played in industrial relations over that period. It also ends the national award system which provided minimum standards of protection for most New Zealand workers through the subsequent parties provisions in the previous legislation. The new Act is largely the product of intense lobbying by supporters of the New Right supported by some employers who have rightly seen the passage of the Act as an opportunity to mount a major attack on wages and working conditions. Outside this group, the introduction of the Act enjoyed little popular support.


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