Tourism big-wigs raise concerns

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A Queenstown tourism boss is worried about repercussions of proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act for local operators.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s calling on the government to go back to the drawing board with the Act – changes include scrapping 90-day trials for businesses with more than 20 staff, and enforcing times for rest breaks.

It’s worried that’ll impact the visitor experience and companies may not hire inexperienced staff. Skyline boss Geoff McDonald questions why the changes are being proposed in the first place.

He’s worried the rules might remove flexibility for operators and believes tourism companies already have good rosters, which are responsibly managed to make sure staff get rest breaks.

“Having a fixed time [for a rest break] is just not feasible.

“If it ain’t broke, why are we trying to fix it?”

He’s also got some concerns about the impact of giving the 90-day trial the boot.

“When you’ve got a lot of seasonal workers, there’s quite a bit of churn and change.”

Getting rid of someone under the clause is “pretty rare”.

Local employment relations consultant David Buckingham understands concerns about set rest breaks.

But the 90-day trial? Not so much.

There are clauses and other ways of firing someone who isn’t working out, without relying on a 90-day trial, Buckingham says.

“Many employers don’t use them properly.

“I don’t think it’s going to wreck the tourism industry.”

But minister in charge of workplace relations, Ian Lees-Galloway, rubbishes the suggestion there won’t be any flexibility.

Employers and workers can come up with their own arrangements for rest breaks, he says.

“There should be some faith in employers and workers to come to an arrangement that suits the operation of the business.

“The Bill establishes a fall-back position to use where agreement cannot be reached.”

Ensuring staff are taking breaks is especially important for adventure tourism operators, like white water rafting guides, jetboat drivers, skydiving jump masters and bungy jump masters, he says.

“Workers who don’t take breaks are more likely to have accidents and many of these workers have responsibility for others’ safety as well.”

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz