Successive employment law changes over the last six years that have taken away work rights have led to a Wild West employer culture in many workplaces, Labour’s workplace relations spokesperson Andrew Little says.
A government audit of 23 Christchurch building firms which found significant breaches by 16 of them follows an audit of farm employers showing basic breaches of employment rights by many bosses in that sector.
The latest breaches include not having written employment agreements and making unlawful deductions.
"We shouldn't be surprised that – after repeated attacks on workers' rights by this Government including recently removing the statutory protection of reasonable rest and meal breaks – employers have taken on board the message there are no rules and they are free to do what they like,” Andrew Little said.
"What is disturbing from the most recent audit is that many of the affected employees didn't know what their rights were, and those who thought something was wrong didn't know what to do about it.
"We have employment standards and rights not only to protect workers from being treated unfairly but to make sure all employers operate on a level playing field.
"It’s good that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is taking action in this instance, but it's obvious this is the tip of the iceberg and we need to have much more rigorous enforcement.
"The Ministry would do well to take a leaf out of the recent independent review of forestry and take a tri-partite approach to promoting and enforcing employment standards by working with relevant industry unions.”