The Government may strip the Exclusive Brethren of labour law exemptions due to revelations about their political campaign to oust Labour.
The Brethren currently enjoy an exemption from laws that say employers must allow union access to workplaces.
The Labour Department says 649 employers hold exemption certificates — believed to be held almost exclusively by the country’s 10,000 estimated Exclusive Brethren members.
Labour Minister Ruth Dyson said today the exemption was based on the fact that sect members, who do not vote, remained outside “mainstream political processes”.
But Ms Dyson said that position had been called into question by events of the last year — including the revelation on Friday the sect hired two private investigators to dig dirt on senior Labour figures, including Prime Minister Helen Clark and her husband.
“What’s become evident over the past year or so has clearly put paid to that,” Ms Dyson said.
“Either their previous submissions that they were not involved in political activity were not correct, or they’ve changed their behaviour.
“That certainly puts their situation — in light of their exemptions — as being worthy of reconsideration now.”
Ms Dyson said the exemptions would be reconsidered in the next round of minor amendments to employment law, expected in the next year.
She said she was yet to discuss the step with Helen Clark or other ministers, but expected support.
Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said the issue of the Brethren and its hiring of investigators was likely to be discussed at a meeting of ministers ahead of the formal Cabinet meeting today.
Helen Clark has lashed out at the Brethren in the past month, proposing law changes that would outlaw third-party campaigns like the one worth over $500,000 launched by the Brethren during the last election.
She has also sought to link the secretive sect to the National Party and its leader Don Brash, who admitted at the weekend to meeting Brethren members since the election and did not rule out meeting them again.
But National MPs, who feel the party’s election result was hurt by the “whiff of association” with the Exclusive Brethren, say there never has been or will be formal links between the two.