Labour’s Workplace Relations Policies

28 September 2017

The way things are headed with forming the new Government it’s timely to revisit Labour’s policies in this area. The Jacinda effect meant there was little focus on workplace relations during the campaign, but the policies promoted by Andrew Little remain. To pick out a few key points, Labour’s policy states that when in Government it will:

  • Introduce Fair Pay Agreements that set fair, basic employment conditions across an industry. In conjunction with all relevant stakeholders, a Labour Government would develop and introduce a legislative system of industry and sector collective bargaining that allows unions and employers, with the assistance of the Employment Relations Authority, to create Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum conditions, such as wages, allowances, weekend and night rates, hours of work and leave arrangements for workers across an industry based on the employment standards that apply in that industry. On the face of it this will be a disaster, a real lurch back to the past with more centralised bargaining setting conditions that are unaffordable for many SME’s; and worse, potentially second tier bargaining to enable union members in the larger organisations to have a second bite of the cherry.  Moreover, if unions really think about this, it will reduce their relevance not enhance it.  Organisers will have less incentive to be in organisations to justify their existence and membership is likely to fall away.  Watch this space…..

  • Restore fairness rights for employees by replacing National’s 90 day ‘fire at will’ law with a fast, fair, and simple system. Under the new trial periods people will be given reasons for dismissal and disputes will be heard within 3 weeks of being lodged. Both parties will be allowed representation but no lawyers will be allowed. The referee will seek agreement between the parties but where this is not possible, they will make a final and binding decision that cannot be appealed. There will be a cap on the value of penalties that can be awarded. This approach may be beneficial.  Refer our article on Compensation Awards.

  • Ensure all workers in the core public service are paid at least the Living Wage. Refer our article Pressure on Wage Settlements.

  • Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour and base future increases on the real cost of living for people on low incomes. This includes working towards a minimum wage equal to two-thirds of the average wage as economic conditions allow.

  • Reintroduce legislation for meal breaks.  The former prescriptive approach to rest and meal breaks did not work, to the point unions and employers colluded to in effect break the law.

  • Begin consultation on improving minimum redundancy protection for workers affected by restructuring, giving regard to the recommendations of the 2008 Ministerial Advisory Group report on redundancy and restructuring. Such a move will not be welcomed be employers generally; and runs the risk of double dipping for those employers who already have redundancy compensation formulae.  It’s worth noting that the Australian National Employment Standards provide for statutory compensation – 4 weeks’ pay after 1 years’ service rising to 12 weeks after 10 years’ service.

  • Remove the discrimination that prevents film and television workers bargaining collectively. Currently such people are engaged as contractors.  Changing this legislation will certainly send a ripple through the film and television industry.  And what about real estate agents who are in a similar category at the moment?