Today’s NZ Initiative report confirms so-called ‘Fair Pay Agreements’ will be compulsory, centralised unionism by stealth, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Fair Pay Agreements will force all workers in an industry to go into union negotiations if just 10 per cent of workers in the industry are in favour. Let’s be clear, that is compulsory unionism by stealth.
“This will be a return to 1970s style National Awards. They didn’t work then and they won’t work now. Changing the name won’t change the fact they are bad for the New Zealand economy.
“The Government and its working group have tried to justify the need for these compulsory, centralised Fair Pay Agreements on four claims: a falling share of income going to labour, rising income inequality, a race to the bottom for wages and low productivity.
“The report clearly shows these claims are either blatantly false or that Fair Pay Agreements will not fix them.
“The share of income going to labour has not declined since the 1991 labour reforms. Income inequality has not risen in three decades. And there has not been a ‘race to the bottom’ for wages, in fact, every single income decile has had real wage increases since the 1991 reforms.
“New Zealand’s low productivity pre-dates the 1991 labour market reforms and is a symptom of other problems, Fair Pay Agreements will not fix this. Even the OECD in its recent report on our economy confirmed this.
“Business confidence is already at 10 year lows. This Government’s bad policies and decisions have dragged business confidence back to the lows we saw in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. The threat of this will do nothing to help confidence improve.
“Labour wants higher union membership because the unions are the largest funders of the Labour Party.
“The Government needs to dismiss this wacky idea. It is becoming increasingly clear these changes will cause a boom for unions but will damage New Zealand workers and businesses. New Zealand needs a flexible labour market that respects individual rights to negotiate contracts and doesn’t require compulsory unionism by stealth.”
The Labour-led Government needs to quickly rule out compulsory unionisation which is being proposed by its mates, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The idea being proposed by academics and a former Labour Party president that workers should automatically be signed up to the union and have to opt-out if they don’t want to be is just a sneaky way of making trade union membership compulsory.
“Professor Mark Harcourt and former Labour Party President and MP Margaret Wilson have been working on this since just after the Labour Government came into office. They say they have had meetings with senior Government Ministers about their plan.
“Business confidence is already at 10 year lows. This Government’s poor policy making decision has dragged business confidence back to the lows we saw in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. The threat of this will do nothing to help confidence improve.
“Labour wants higher union membership because the unions are the largest funders of the Labour Party. This would be a return to compulsory unionism.
“If this Government is serious about improving business confidence, it will rule out this proposal.”
Retailers will still be allowed to sell heavier grade, more environmentally-harmful plastic shopping bags despite the Government’s plastic bag ban because of a loophole in the regulations, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“It’s another example of the Government not delivering on its promises. They like making grand gestures but are hopeless when it comes to the detail.
“Documents from the Ministry for the Environment, supplied to me under the Official Information Act, show the Government was warned back in March that its ban doesn’t cover so-called ‘emergency style’ plastic bags made from 55 micron LDPE plastic.
“An example of these are the green and white bags that were being sold for 15c at Countdown supermarkets. They are actually more harmful to the environment than the single-use bags that have been outlawed.
“These bags are exempt because they can be reused 20 times, but officials told Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage back in March that they shouldn’t be. They said plastic bags should be able to be reused at least 55 times to pass the multi-use test.
“Officials warned Ms Sage that most people would not hold on to these bags for reuse, and many would end up in landfill. But rather than get tough with retailers she chose to just cross her fingers and hope they don’t start using these heavier plastic bags.
“Countdown won’t sell their emergency bags from July 1, but Foodstuffs are apparently working on a heavier grade version of their own. If more retailers follow their lead it will see even more plastic enter our landfills and marine environment.
“We need to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives, but Ms Sage clearly doesn’t have the mettle to make this happen.”
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has opened up the possibility of collective bargaining to all contractors following changes made to the so-called ‘Hobbit Law’, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The Government is intent on giving more power to unions and this is just another example of that. Introducing collective bargaining to contractors will remove the flexibility for both workers and businesses and further lock up our labour markets.
“Labour promised to repeal the so called ‘Hobbit Law’ within its first 100 days, but realised it was a sensible and pragmatic solution. Now 18-months later it’s decided to make onerous changes to keep its union mates happy.
“The screen industry brought in $3.3 billion last year and creates 30,000 jobs. By caving into the unions, movie makers are more likely to head offshore, that means less money for our economy and fewer jobs in the film industry.
“New Zealand has a reputation for making great films. The industry has had huge benefits for the economy and has meant more jobs for people in the industry.
“The Government put $155 million in the Budget for film industry grants, so it’s giving with one hand but deterring film production with restrictive employment laws with the other.
“National believes the best framework to increase wages over time includes flexible labour markets, respect for the right of individual workers and businesses to agree to their own terms and allows workers to negotiate their own contracts based on productivity or experience.”
The Minister for the Environment needs to step in and provide tangible Government support for the West Coast landfill spill, says National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson.
“So far the Government haven’t done enough to address the issue, and ten weeks on we’re continuing to see tonnes of waste spewing into the Fox River and washing up on the coast in what has been described as the biggest environmental disaster since the Rena oil spill.
“Despite the magnitude of the situation Environment Minister David Parker has palmed the job off to Associate Minister Eugenie Sage, but she is failing to make any headway into what is becoming an increasingly big issue.
“The job has been left to a handful of dedicated volunteers who are trying their best to clean up but are lacking resources. The local Westland District Council have already spent more than a million dollars but can’t fund further work. They need serious and urgent Government assistance.
“If a disaster of this magnitude was taking place in a less remote part of the country there would have been a huge public outcry for action already. The Government is taking an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach that’s entirely unacceptable.
“My colleague based in West Coast/Tasman Maureen Pugh has started a petition calling on the Government to address the situation, and I encourage you to sign it by following the link on my Facebook page.
“This is a Government that often tells us how much they care. Now it’s time for them to walk their talk and do something meaningful to help the people of Westland, New Zealand and our environment.”
Eugenie Sage’s working group set up to combat China’s ban on importing waste has released a set of soft options that won’t address the issue at hand, National Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Following the Government’s trend of releasing bad news on Friday afternoon are today’s recommendations that lack any immediate solutions to the piles of plastic waste being stockpiled or sent to landfill in New Zealand.
“I’m especially disappointed the Minister has refused to consider the introduction of a container deposit scheme, which would offer a tangible commitment to combatting waste.
“Instead the Minister has opted for a light range of options that equates to more reviews and studies rather than effective change.
“The Minister claimed to have all the answers in Opposition but seems to have nothing substantial now she’s in Government. She needs to commit to tangible initiatives rather than more eco-babble.”
Trade unions will gain even more power as a result of new laws taking effect tomorrow, National’s Workplace Relations Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“New trade union friendly laws pushed through Parliament last year mean powerful and increasingly militant trade unions will become more aggressive than they have been over the past 18 months.
“The changes mean trade unions will have greater influence in the day to day running of businesses. There are a raft of new rules and regulations employers are having to grapple with. All the changes add confusion, complexity and cost. None of them improve productivity.
“Reports of businesses using a ‘sinking lid’ are increasing. When people leave or retire they are simply not replaced. Employers are looking for ways to minimise the negative impacts of these changes and having fewer staff is one of those.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are already struggling as trading conditions weaken across the country and typically small businesses don’t have access to their own in-house HR resource or advice.
“It’s no surprise that many will now structure their business to minimise intrusive, strike happy trade union involvement by reducing employee numbers, hiring contractors instead of permanent staff or just shrinking their business.
“Since the Labour-led government came to power we’ve had more strikes than at any time in the past 30 years. That’s no coincidence and these changes are more about the Labour-led Government paying back a political debt than they are about creating an economy in which businesses can have the confidence to grow and create new permanent jobs.”
Notes to editors:
Changes coming into effect on Monday 6th May include:
- Paid time for union delegates to do union work on the employers time
- Requirement to conclude collective bargaining
- Provision of rates of wages and salary to be included in collective agreements
- Employers’ obligations to new employees who are not union members
- Changes to 90 day trial periods
- Continuity of employment if an employee’s work is affected by restructuring
- Rest break and meal break changes
The Government needs to step up to assist in the cleaning up the Westland landfill washout, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This is a large scale environmental disaster. It’s unacceptable to have rubbish from the disused landfill spewing out into one of New Zealand’s most pristine natural environments.
“I visited the site over the Easter break with local West Coast based National MP Maureen Pugh. What we saw was heart-breaking. It’s so sad to see old rubbish like this in one of our country’s most magnificent natural places. Future floods will see more rubbish washed down river and into the ocean.
“This is a Government that says it cares about the environment, but when action and financial support is required, it is nowhere to be seen. The Council has done what it can as a patch up job. But with more bad winter weather coming soon, a much bigger, costlier solution is required.
“Associate Environment Minister, Conservation Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage needs to step up but she says she won’t. No wonder people are saying this Government doesn’t walk the talk when it comes to environmental issues.
“Some people have described the landfill washout as the biggest environmental disaster since the Rena oil spill.
“Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith told me his council can’t keep funding the clean-up work by itself. Minister Eugenie Sage needs to provide some meaningful financial support right now.
“Ms Sage has options and funding could be made available if she wanted it to be. The fact she hasn’t done anything speaks volumes about her actual commitment to our environment.
“Volunteers have been doing a terrific job trying to pick up rubbish but we can’t rely on the goodwill of small teams of volunteers to sort a disaster of this scale.
“The Government is failing the people of Westland, New Zealand and our environment. It’s time for the Government to stop telling us how much it cares and to actually do something tangible.”
Some 8000 jobs may be lost with today’s minimum wage hike, about equal to the population of Motueka, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“National raised the minimum wage every year in Government in step with inflation and economy-wide wage rises. They were reasonable and manageable for small businesses, but this Government’s decisions are too much, too fast and based on ideology and political deal-making.
“Today’s minimum wage hike is the steepest in New Zealand history and forces new costs onto businesses, making it harder for them to maintain or create new jobs. Two more sharp increases are coming by 2020 because of Labour’s coalition deal with NZ First.
“Workers and businesses are being hurt by this Government’s poor policy decisions on employment. They’ll soon both lose control of decisions on pay and conditions when they’re forced into compulsory national awards.
“We have much to be proud of as a world-beating economy of nimble, innovative companies that grow and hire more workers. But this Government is dragging us back to an age when New Zealand limped along on subsidies and was held hostage by trade unions.
“We’re enduring the worst outbreak of strikes in three decades and employment data is deteriorating. Unemployment has jumped by 10,000 in the past three months and 11,000 more people have enrolled on jobseeker in the past year. ANZ’s business confidence survey shows firms’ willingness to hire more workers has all but stalled.
“Even the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund is a sham for jobs with hardly any created. The last thing we need is Government policies killing off jobs and stifling our economy but now even the Reserve Bank says the New Zealand economy is losing momentum.
“Advice to Iain Lees-Galloway shows this year’s minimum wage hike will cost the Government $93 million and add $230 million of costs to New Zealand in total, inevitably leading to higher prices. Treasury says further hikes to reach $20/hour by 2021 ‘could be more significant’.
“National supports policies that drive economic growth and ultimately benefit all our communities. We need a productive, growing economy to meet the needs of all New Zealanders.”
Thousands of commuters on Auckland’s North Shore felt the effects of the Government’s close union ties when bus services were cancelled without notice this morning, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Strikes inconvenience the public at the best of times. But wildcat strikes, without notice, are the worst kind of militant action and use ordinary Kiwis as leverage in industrial disputes.
“The Government has empowered its union affiliates through legislation which has encouraged the most strikes in decades, with worse to come. It appears indifferent to the disruptions inflicted on our communities.
“North Shore commuters paid the price with a bus strike today they didn’t know was taking place. They had no chance to make other travel arrangements. The Labour-led Government needs to condemn this type of blunt-force strike action.
“Wildcat strikes do nothing to enhance the public’s already low opinion of trade union militancy and the Government needs to make clear to union bosses that strikes without notice are unacceptable.
“The Government must take much of the blame for this new era of strikes since it has imposed laws that give statutory authority to the unions, make our workplaces less flexible, drive up costs and make it harder for businesses to create new jobs.
“National believes economic growth is the best way to drive up wage growth and create employment opportunities. We will reverse this Government’s employment law changes and focus on a sensible economic growth strategy that give all Kiwis more opportunities.”