In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
In this edition of her 2005 TV series, broadcaster Kim Hill interviews then union leader Andrew Little. Little is advocating for a five percent pay increase for members of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (now E tū). Little bemoans lack of investment in training and argues for "growing the real value of wages" in a booming economy, while Hill grills the campaign’s potential effect on businesses and Little’s political ambitions. Little went on to become President of the Labour Party. In 2011 he was elected as a list MP, and led the party from 2014 to 2017.