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More employment cases will be litigated following a landmark Employment Court ruling that paves the way for tens of thousands of home care relief workers to receive the minimum wage and holidays, New Zealand unions predicted. Service and Food Workers Union took the winning case to court and national secretary, John Ryall said litigation to secure workers’ rights was now preferable to collective bargaining. "We decided there’s got to be a better way than (collective bargaining), said Ryall which he described as hopeless. "Every time we win one of these cases, someone stands up, and we discover a new detail of discrimination. I think these cases will continue, until such time as there is a collective bargaining system in place." CTU’s Helen Kelly agreed with the tactic of strategic litigation. "We have to rely on the minimum code – Minimum Wage, Holidays Act, Equal Pay Act – to get any sort of justice. This [latest ruling] is one of a series of cases, and we’ve got more planned," she said.
New employment laws that went into effect March 6 will leave workers worse off, warned union leaders. They said provisions of the controversial Employment Relations Amendment Act, which affects collective bargaining, will increase the opportunity for exploitation of workers. Among other changes, strict rules over breaks are eliminated and employers and workers can agree on the timing or duration of breaks and receive compensation for not taking a break. "This Government should be ashamed of itself. They do not care about New Zealand workers and they are determined to drive wages down in this country and removing their tea break and their lunch break is an absolute attack on every working person in this country," said CTU’s Helen Kelly. The legislation also removes the requirement for new staff to be employed under the collective agreement for the first 30 days and allows employers to walk away from collective bargaining. Others unions such as the NZ Nurses Organisation expressed similar concerns.