Labour to set up ‘fair pay rates’

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - VER­NON SMALL

Labour is promis­ing to boost in­comes, and stop a race to the bot­tom by bad em­ploy­ers, with an em­ploy­ment re­la­tions pack­age that in­cludes a move to base in­dus­try em­ploy­ment stan­dards.

An­nounc­ing the pol­icy yes­ter­day, leader An­drew Lit­tle said the aim was to pre­vent ‘‘a race to the bot­tom’’ seen in some in­dus­tries where good em­ploy­ers were un­der­cut by bad em­ploy­ers try­ing to drive down wages.

‘‘Labour’s sen­si­ble changes will help boost in­comes and sup­port em­ploy­ers who of­fer good pay and con­di­tions. It’s the right thing to do af­ter nine years of a govern­ment that has put prof­its ahead of a fair re­turn for work­ing peo­ple.’’

Key changes pro­posed by Labour in­clude a lift in the min­i­mum wage from $15.75 to $16.50. It would base fu­ture rises on the cost of liv­ing for those on low in­comes.

‘‘Over time we will work to­wards lift­ing the min­i­mum wage to two-thirds of the av­er­age wage as eco­nomic con­di­tions al­low,’’ Lit­tle said

The party would also re­place the 90-day trial pe­riod – what Labour calls the ‘‘fire-at-will’’ pol­icy – with a law that re­tains 90-day tri­als but of­fers pro­tec­tion against un­jus­ti­fied dis­missal and a ‘‘ref­eree’’ ser­vice to re­solve dis­putes.

Lit­tle said Labour had al­ways sup­ported trial pe­ri­ods that in­cluded re­course for em­ploy­ees in the event of un­jus­ti­fied dis­missal.

‘‘Em­ploy­ers, par­tic­u­larly small busi­nesses, have le­git­i­mate con­cerns that re­solv­ing em­ploy­ment dis­putes can be time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive.’’

So a ref­eree would be used who would hold short hear­ings with­out lawyers present and make quick de­ci­sions on re­in­state­ment or award dam­ages up to a set cap. The ser­vice would be free to use but would cost the govern­ment $4 mil­lion a year, Labour said.

But the most con­tro­ver­sial el­e­ment of the pack­age is likely to be fair pay agree­ments (FPAs) that would set ba­sic em­ploy­ment con­di­tions across an in­dus­try ‘‘based on stan­dards that ap­ply in that in­dus­try’’.

FPAs ‘‘will be agreed by busi­nesses within an in­dus­try and the unions rep­re­sent­ing work­ers within that in­dus­try’’.

‘‘The re­cent care and sup­port work­ers’ set­tle­ment is an ex­am­ple of how em­ploy­ers, em­ploy­ees and govern­ment can come to­gether to cre­ate an agree­ment that sets base con­di­tions across an in­dus­try.’’

Lit­tle said FPAs would pre­vent ‘‘a race to the bot­tom’’.

‘‘The cur­rent law un­der­mines good em­ploy­ers who pay their em­ploy­ees well and of­fer good work­ing con­di­tions. Labour’s sen­si­ble changes will fix this,’’ he said.

FPAs would cre­ate a frame­work for fair wage in­creases where good em­ploy­ers were not com­mer­cially dis­ad­van­taged for do­ing the right thing.

The FPAs would cover all work­ers and work­places in a rel­e­vant in­dus­try, and FPA talks would be­gin once ‘‘a suf­fi­cient per­cent­age’’ of em­ploy­ers or em­ploy­ees called for one.

That thresh­old and ‘‘the pre­cise im­ple­men­ta­tion’’ of FPAs would be de­vel­oped in govern­ment, Labour said.

Other el­e­ments in the pol­icy in­clude a prom­ise to pro­mote the liv­ing wage by pay­ing all work­ers in the core public ser­vice, at an es­ti­mated cost of $15m per year, and ex­tend­ing that to con­trac­tors over time.

It would also dou­ble the num­ber of labour in­spec­tors to 110 at a cost of $9m.

Em­ploy­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers group the EMA said it had deep con­cerns about Labour’s pol­icy.

‘‘Our cur­rent sys­tem pro­vides flex­i­bil­ity which al­lows in­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies to bar­gain with their own work­ers to de­velop em­ploy­ment agree­ments which suit the needs of busi­ness and its work­ers,’’ EMA chief ex­ec­u­tive Kim Camp­bell said.

But unions wel­comed pro­posed law changes.

Coun­cil of Trade Unions pres­i­dent Richard Wagstaff said the pol­icy was be­ing cel­e­brated by work­ing peo­ple as in­no­va­tive, fu­ture­fo­cused and fair.

‘‘We are ex­cited to see Labour’s com­mit­ment to in­tro­duce fair pay agree­ments which would set ba­sic em­ploy­ment con­di­tions across an in­dus­try. This is such an im­por­tant is­sue for work­ing peo­ple whose pay and con­di­tions are con­stantly un­der threat.’’ the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.