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Dark Cloud Hangs Over Labour Day As National And ACT Poised To Attack Workers’ Rights

While working people across Aotearoa New Zealand relax on Labour Day, the incoming government is busy drawing up plans to overturn recent advances for workers’ rights warns the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.

“This day of celebration for working people is tinged with sadness as the next government plots a return to employment relations of the past,” said Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff.

“But make no mistake, the union movement will be fighting hard to protect the gains we have made and will continue to advocate for policies that raise wages and provide security for families.”

National has made clear its intention to pass legislation within the first 100 days in government to overturn progress made by the Labour government in strengthening protections for workers.

It plans to:

  • scrap Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum pay, leave and other conditions for workers in an industry or occupation
  • reinstate 90-day fire at will employment trial periods for all businesses regardless of size.

“It’s simply indecent haste,” said Wagstaff. “Bargaining for Fair Pay Agreements is only just getting underway – including for several essential groups like supermarket workers, security guards and bus drivers.

“We don’t understand what National, ACT and employer groups fear from agreements which support good employers by ensuring that they can’t be undercut by those looking to exploit low paid workers.

“National says it wants a high wage economy – we agree so let’s keep Fair Pay Agreements because they are all about boosting the wages of Kiwis and keeping good workers here.

“Similar industry wide bargaining agreements overseas support that. Australia’s modern awards system has helped wages there continue to outstrip what Kiwi workers are earning.

“The reinstatement of the 90-day fire at will law is also a step backwards. Treasury has stated that the 90-day provision does not lead to increased hiring of workers which employers so often claim is the case.

“The fact that this is all happening while we mark the introduction of the eight-hour working day 124 years ago says a lot about the priorities of the incoming government.

“The good news is that the union movement is in strong heart, we are well organised and will be campaigning strongly for what working people need – decent wages and job security,” said Richard Wagstaff.