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The Further Re-regulation of Farming Employment Relations in New Zealand

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This article extends the analysis of employment relations in New Zealand agriculture, begun in this journal in 1987, with a look backwards into how employment had developed from colonisation in the nineteenth century. That was extended by a further article in 1995, which considered the changes in employment relations that had followed the profound restructuring of the agricultural industries from 1984. Since 1995 there have been further profound changes but this time in New Zealand's parliamentary arrangements, following the introduction of the German proportional representation system of voting for the 1996 General Election. Subsequently governments have been coalitions and legislation has had to be less extreme. The Employment Contracts Act, 1991 has been replaced by the Employment Relations Act, 2000. High unemployment has been replaced by the lowest levels experienced in 30 years. The largest changes to affect the industries' employment relations, it is argued, are those brought about by the globalisation of agricultural supply chains and the changed labour market. Supermarket chains require not only quality-assured produce to avoid risks to customers' health and safety, but also that food contracted is produced by properly trained, rewarded and satisfied staff. Thus, by a strange quirk, supermarkets in the vanguard of food capitalism may achieve more for improvements in agricultural employment than successive government policies have struggled to do.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Agriculture and Life Sciences GroupLincoln UniversityP O Box 84, 7647 Canterbury,New Zealand., Email:

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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