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Fair Pay Agreement: Govt considering report recommendations

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Thursday, 31 January 2019, 9:57a.m.
Minister of Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway

Minister of Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway says the Government is in the process of considering the Fair Pay agreement recommendations.

The Government's fair pay working group has delivered 46 recommendations to the Government which it says will help see the end of the "race to the bottom" when it comes to wages.

The group, led by former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger, has reported back on the design of a Fair Pay Agreement system which it says would set minimum standards for industries or occupations.

Minimum standards protect employers offering workers fair pay and conditions from being undercut by employers who get ahead by driving down wages and other benefits.

The recommendations address the initiation of bargaining, coverage of the agreements, scope and the bargaining process of negotiations.

One of the recommendations is around collective bargaining, with the group suggesting workers should be able to initiate a Fair Pay Agreement bargaining process if they can meet a minimum threshold of 1000 people, or 10 per cent of workers in the nominated sector or occupation, whichever is lower.

Iain Lees-Galloway told Mike Hosking the report is excellent and covers three important things.

"It does the obvious thing, which is to give Government recommendations on how we should progress fair pay agreements."

"It does two other really important things as well. It sets out the case for change, the challenges that we are trying to address, which are low productivity, low wages and inequality of wages in New Zealand."

"The other thing it does is, it sets out where New Zealand's industrial framework sits in an international context, and it points out that two-thirds of OECD countries have some form of sector-level bargaining."

He said the Government will now work to finalise the details.

"It's now our job to sit down and consider our response to that report and, of course, to embark on the considerable job of doing the detailed policy design."

"Throughout all of that process we are going to keep business at the table, we are going to keep unions at the table and work through that."

BusinessNZ was one of three employer representatives on the working group who disagree with key recommendations of the report.

However, they opposed the recommendations saying it would limit business flexibility and increase the risk of industrial action.

Despite the disagreement, Lees-Galloway said they are still committed to working with businesses.

"If we all just stopped work at the first sign of a difference of opinion then nothing would get done, but we are committed to doing this alongside business and unions, we really appreciate the work that they have done so far...and I'm very confident we can continue to work together in a constructive fashion."

When asked why only 10 per cent of an industry can trigger a Fair Pay Agreement, the Minister said there has to be a "trigger point".

"That's the group's recommendations for a trigger, it's not their recommendation for how a Fair Pay Agreement would actually be finalised."

"They have decided to go for one which is reasonbaley low...but as I say, all of these recommendations the Government now needs to consider."

Iain Lees-Galloway also refuted claims that this agreement would mean employees and employers couldn't have individual contracts.

"It's not correct that there would be no individual agreements. It
s perfectly possible for people to have an individual agreement.

"[But] under the mechanism that has been recommended...an individual agreement would have to have at least the same or super terms and conditions to the Fair Pay Agreement. But at no point do they say that you can't have an enterprise level collective agreement or indeed an individual agreement."

Lees-Galloway said the Government won't be initiated the bargaining and instead are leaving it in the hands of the workers and industries.

He said there is still a considerable amount of work to be done so he isn't putting a timeframe on it.

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