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Work-life balance. In this essay, I will be writing on behalf of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU). I will outline a policy that the NZCTU believes will help in this area, namely legislation making it easier for workers to achieve more flexi

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Introduction

One of the major issues that unions have been concerned with in recent years is work-life balance. Many workers face problems balancing their work with the other demands in their lives, such as parenting, caregiving, fulfilling responsibilities in the community, and having adequate time for leisure. In this essay, I will be writing on behalf of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU). I will outline a policy that the NZCTU believes will help in this area, namely legislation making it easier for workers to achieve more flexible hours; discuss the various methods that the NZCTU can use to ensure this policy is adopted; and finally, assess the NZCTU's chances of success, given the balance of power between trade unions and other interest groups. What is the policy? The NZCTU believes that there are a number of changes that can be made to employment legislation that would make it easier for employees to achieve greater work-life balance. One such law currently going through Parliament is Sue Kedgley's Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Bill. The bill aims to implement a number of processes that workers and employers can go through while negotiating flexible working hours. Firstly, the bill gives workers a clear right to request more flexible hours. Secondly, it gives employers the right to turn down such requests, but only for certain reasons, such as an inability to reorganise working hours with existing staff (Beaumont 2007). ...read more.

Middle

How will the NZCTU push for the legislation? The NZCTU has a number of strategies it can use to achieve its aims. Firstly, it can lobby the government and members of Parliament to change employment laws and implement legislation such as the flexible working hours bill. Trade unions are known as "insider groups" because they tend to have direct access to ministers and other members of Parliament. This is particularly so for the NZCTU, which represents 39 affiliated unions (NZCTU 2006a). In this way, union leaders are able to lobby politicians directly. Other strategies that trade unions can use include strikes and protests, and advertising campaigns to attract public support. Trade unions can also make submissions to select committees. Although anyone can submit to a select committee, submissions from unions are likely to carry more weight, because of the large size of unions. The NZCTU has made a submission on this bill to the select committee, which was strongly supportive of workers' rights to flexible work but which also argued that the bill needed to go further in some areas (NZCTU 2006b). The NZCTU is also part of the Coalition for Quality Flexible Work, a lobby group formed to support the flexible work bill. The coalition includes more than 20 other groups, including the Parenting Council of New Zealand, Grey Power, and the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women, as well as several of NZCTU's affiliated unions. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the bill faces opposition from business associations and from the National Party (Beaumont 2007). Although business associations are much smaller than trade unions in terms of membership, they have significant power over government policy. Business associations have significant financial resources available to them, allowing them to carry out lobbying campaigns to achieve their aims. These include advertising campaigns to generate public support, donations to political parties, funding for academic research, and the ownership of the media. In addition, the government is largely financially dependent on business. Tax on business forms a significant part of the state's revenue, and businesses can threaten to transfer overseas if conditions in New Zealand are unfavourable (Roper 2005: 89). This disproportionate power of business associations, given their small membership, is an argument against the notion that interest groups compete on a "level playing field" (Roper 1993: 148). Conclusion The NZCTU believes that legislation making it easier for workers to achieve flexible working hours is an essential step towards greater work-life balance. There are a number of means that the NZCTU can use to ensure that this bill is passed, including lobbying of ministers and other MPs, select committee submissions, and publicity campaigns as part of the Coalition for Quality Flexible Work. Despite the opposition from businesses and the National Party, the NZCTU believes that the proposed bill has a good prospect of success, given the strong support that it attracts from unions, parents, and the general public. ...read more.

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