NZ’s largest private sector union, the Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union, has suspended an employee after he was placed on ACT’s party list (hat-tip Redbaiter). The EPMU says that Shawn Tan did not seek permission to stand as a candidate, and this is required by the collective agreement under which he is employed along with the Union’s rules.
Idiot Savant says, it’s just not on. I’m not quite so sure.
Certainly, unions’ role in regulating employers’ ill-treatment of workers and promoting workers’ rights does not exempt them from the very standards they seek to enforce. Discrimination on the basis of political belief is unlawful.
The Human Rights Act 1993 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of “political opinion, which includes the lack of a particular political opinion or any political opinion”, except “in relation to employment of a political nature.” The latter is spelt out and the EPMU is not covered.
However, the EPMU have not started disciplinary procedures because of Tan’s political beliefs. (Idiot Savant says “give him his job back”, but he hasn’t lost it yet.) The EPMU probably knew about Tan’s political beliefs before his placement on ACT’s list, but continued to employ him without prejudice it would seem.
They are concerned about his standing for office without permission, and that is a completely different matter. It would be possible, but unlikely, to stand for political office without any political beliefs whatsoever. Say for a dare.
Standing for office implies taking time off work. The EPMU want to be able as an employer to balance workloads. There is a contractual condition to ask for permission to stand as a candidate for this reason. Why didn’t Tan do this?
[Update: some reflections from Steve Pierson at The Standard.]