Hope task­force can help Bay builders

Hawke's Bay Today - - LOCAL NEWS - By An­drew Ash­ton an­drew.ash­ton@hbto­day.co.nz

Hopes are high that a new govern­ment task­force aimed at im­ple­ment­ing fair pay for con­trac­tors could also help pre­vent Hawke’s Bay build­ing firms go­ing to the wall.

Last week Work­place Re­la­tions and Safety Min­is­ter Iain Lees-Gal­loway said for­mer Na­tional Party Prime Min­is­ter Jim Bol­ger would lead a team tasked with mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on how the Govern­ment could es­tab­lish new fair pay agree­ments across whole sec­tors of in­dus­try.

“Work­ers and em­ploy­ers know their sec­tor best,” Lees Gal­loway said.

“By work­ing to­gether through ef­fec­tive en­gage­ment and bar­gain­ing co-op­er­a­tively, work­ers and em­ploy­ers can set stan­dards that are rel­e­vant to their sec­tor and sup­port pro­duc­tiv­ity and growth.

“The aim of FPAs [fair pay agree­ments] is to pre­vent a race to the bot­tom, where some em­ploy­ers are un­der­cut by oth­ers who re­duce costs through low wages and poor con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment.

“Through the team led by Jim Bol­ger, the Govern­ment in­tends to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to al­low em­ploy­ers and work­ers to cre­ate fair pay agree­ments that set min­i­mum em­ploy­ment terms and con­di­tions for all work­ers in the in­dus­try or oc­cu­pa­tion cov­ered by the agree­ment.

“Fair pay agree­ments will help lift wages and con­di­tions and en­sure good em­ploy­ers are not dis­ad­van­taged by pay­ing rea­son­able, in­dus­try-stan­dard wages.”

Last year, prom­i­nent Hawke’s Bay home- builder Fargher Con­struc­tion went into liq­ui­da­tion in the midst of a re­gional con­struc­tion boom, after fac­ing cash­flow is­sues com­pounded by the with­drawal of credit from a ma­jor sup­plier.

At the time New Zealand Build­ing In­dus­try Fed­er­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Bruce Kohn cau­tioned that prof­itabil­ity mar­gins were com­monly cut within some play­ers in the in­dus­try to beat out com­peti­tors — a prac­tice that threat­ened the vi­a­bil­ity of the com­pet­ing build­ing busi­nesses.

Kohn has wel­comed the ap­pointed of Bol­ger to lead the task­force.

“Jim Bol­ger is an ideal per­son to lead this ini­tia­tive. He has back­ground as a Labour Min­is­ter prior to be­ing Prime Min­is­ter and tra­verses both side of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

“His un­der­stand­ing of the pres­sures com­ing to bear on both the build­ing in­dus­try and the prop­erty de­vel­op­ment sec­tor from ris­ing land prices will be help­ful to the ex­er­cise.

“If the ini­tia­tive is to suc­ceed his in­stinc­tive un­der­stand­ing of what makes Ki­wis tick will be a vi­tal el­e­ment in bal­anc­ing the re­spec­tive per­spec­tives of both em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees.”

Hawke’s Bay Cham­ber of Com­merce chief ex­ec­u­tive Wayne Wal­ford said it would be “in­ter­est­ing” to see what came out of the ini­tia­tive.

Al­though any­thing that was good for em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees was nor­mally not good for cus­tomers and that would af­fect in­fla­tion, cre­at­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on the econ­omy, pro­duc­tiv­ity im­prove­ments were likely.

“As much as the con­cept will drive up prices and add to in­fla­tion, we know it will hap­pen with the cur­rent Govern­ment so the best op­tion for busi­nesses, cus­tomers and ex­porters is a slow-stepped im­ple­men­ta­tion rather than a large jump.”

A spokesman for the Work­place Min­is­ter said the Govern­ment was also ded­i­cated to in­tro­duc­ing statu­tory sup­port and le­gal rights for “de­pen­dent con­trac­tors” who are ef­fec­tively work­ers un­der the con­trol of an em­ployer, but who do not re­ceive the le­gal pro­tec­tions that are cur­rently pro­vided to em­ploy­ees un­der the law.

It would also ex­tend the right to or­gan­ise and bar­gain col­lec­tively to con­trac­tors who pri­mar­ily sold their labour.

PHOTO / FILE

For­mer Na­tional Party Prime Min­is­ter Jim Bol­ger is lead­ing a team look­ing to halt a race to the bot­tom.

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