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.”
The recommendations of Iain Lees-Galloway’s Fair Pay Agreement Working Group show the Government’s industrial relations agenda amounts to compulsory unionism by stealth, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Businesses and workers should be frightened. The recommendations from the working group are as radical as we originally feared - backward, one-size-fits-all and rigid.
“Just 10 per cent of an industry would be able to trigger mandatory nationwide employment negotiations. Business owners would lose control over an important part of running their enterprise. Workers would be forced into line with the union movement.
“One of the most worrying aspects is the lack of opt-out provisions for businesses. That means both small and large businesses across New Zealand will be coerced into more restrictive, costly employment agreements. That is a step towards compulsory unionism.
“The Government needs to quickly dismiss these radical recommendations and give certainty to businesses and workers that they will not be coerced into these restored national awards. They hurt our economy in the 1970s and they will hurt it now.
“It is also worrying for the credibility of the recommendations if it is true that some working group members were prevented from expressing their own view of an appropriate framework. The report should reflect the entire spectrum of opinion of its members, not just the union and academic majority.
“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.”
As local councils grapple with the litter left behind by holidaymakers, a Member's Bill from National could soon introduce stiffer penalties for people caught illegally dumping rubbish, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
"It really annoys me seeing our beautiful natural environment ruined by the careless and thoughtless actions of lazy litterbugs.
"It's sadly far too common to see people brazenly throwing litter from moving cars, to say nothing of others who dump their rubbish without a thought about the impacts.
“My Member’s Bill will ensure Councils have a more powerful tool to help prevent littering and keep our communities safe and clean. It is due to have its Second Reading in Parliament in February.
“This Bill will increase the maximum on-the-spot infringement fines councils can impose for those caught littering from the current measly $400 to a serious $1000. This will send a clear message to those who litter that it is entirely unacceptable.
“Councils and communities are continually dealing with the mess left behind by those who would instead litter our countryside than dispose of their rubbish legally and properly.
“As the MP for Coromandel, I see how particularly bad litter is during the holiday season when we have thousands of visitors. Some of them care little about the litter they leave behind when they go home.
“With the current maximum infringement fine set at just $400 some councils don’t even bother issuing on the spot litter fines. I hope an increase to a $1000 maximum will change that and send a strong message to litterbugs.
“This Members Bill builds on National’s previous efforts to curb littering which included the ‘Do the Right Thing’ anti-littering campaign and funding of over $80 million to more than 130 projects through the Waste Minimisation Fund.
“Fines are just one part of the solution but, combined with working with councils and changing people’s attitudes I believe we can reduce the amount of litter left behind and ensure our environment looks better, our wildlife is better protected, and our clean, green reputation is upheld.”
Today’s $1.20 per hour wage hike will be welcomed by workers on the minimum wage but will cost jobs and make it harder for businesses already struggling with new taxes and higher costs, National’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“National supports consistent increases to the minimum wage and we raised it every year we were in Government. Increases need to reflect the economic climate and inflation. While signalled, a 7 per cent hike to $17.70 an hour is steep, and so is the extra $231 million a year in costs it will impose on New Zealand businesses.
“While the announcement is good news for workers on the lowest pay rates for others it will mean their jobs are in jeopardy as businesses will struggle to absorb the new costs.
“Just last year MBIE said a similar increase of $1.25 would cost 7000 jobs and increase inflation. Some businesses will struggle as a result of this increase and jobs will go with them. We already have the highest minimum wage relative to the average wage in the OECD and this will make us more of an outlier.
“It’s yet another decision made by this Government which will make it harder to do business.
“The problem is Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway knows that and has said he doesn’t care. Good intentions, bad outcomes.
“You simply can’t just legislate your way to prosperity – if you could you’d simply make the minimum wage $50. But artificially inflating wages is no substitute for an economic plan.
“The fact is these decisions have consequences but like so much of what this Government does it hasn’t thought those through.”
Government Ministers should explain why the worst year for strikes in three decades will be rounded out by a stoppage by Air New Zealand engineers on the Friday before Christmas, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Calling a strike on the airline’s busiest day of the year is designed to maximise the disruption to the tens of thousands of Kiwis travelling to be with family over Christmas. It is just the latest move by a union movement empowered by its mates in the Government.
“As a result, the whole country is held to ransom. This is exactly the sort of strike the Prime Minister told us wouldn’t happen. Labour is taking us back to 1970s-style adversarial union activity except back then it was Cook Strait ferry unions disrupting Christmas.
“This Government holds Air New Zealand up as an example of best practice for industrial relations. In debate over the Employment Relations Amendment Bill this week, Labour MP Marja Lubeck said union delegates at the airline play a crucial role in ‘coming to a good, concluded bargaining that ensures that both sides of the party win’.
“Ordinary New Zealanders will certainly not be winners. Some 42,000 people are booked to fly on Dec. 21 and they don’t deserve to have their Christmas break disrupted by the Labour Party’s union affiliates. This is on top of news that petrol tanker drivers will strike in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday.
“The Labour-led Government must take much of the blame for the number of disruptive strikes this year since it has signalled that this is a time for pay increases and 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 gives all Kiwis more opportunities.”
The Labour-led Government has persisted with employment law changes that will hurt the New Zealand economy, our businesses and workers, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Iain Lees-Galloway has claimed the Employment Relations Amendment Bill was intended to make life better for working New Zealanders. The real intent is to strengthen the rights of Labour’s union affiliates while doing little for the 83 per cent of workers who aren’t union members.
“This Bill forces extra costs on business, allows pay rates to be settled elsewhere and lets union officials enter workplaces unannounced.
“The coalition’s junior partner, NZ First, has failed to get any substantial push-back on what is an ideologically driven Bill. Given it wrangled a $3 billion slush fund out of the coalition agreement, the public must wonder what horse-trading went on to tame Winston Peters.
“Business leaders say they were ignored during the passage of the Bill and may have been hoping NZ First would argue on behalf of firms both large and small. But it has achieved little for the SMEs it purports to care for, which will now face increased costs they can’t control.
“Workplace flexibility is a key pillar of New Zealand’s economic growth and explains why we have one of the world’s highest rates of employment. Under current law, some 245,000 jobs have been created in the past two years. That’s an extra 5 per cent of Kiwis in work.
“Instead of trying to enhance the strengths of our economy, this Government has sparked the worst year of strikes in three decades, with no end in sight. Families with school children, commuters and people using health and justice services are among those being disrupted.
“Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is under scrutiny in other portfolios for skipping key details. He can’t be relied on to avoid hurting the economy with this Bill.
“A good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy that creates jobs and nurtures our communities. A future National-led Government will repeal this attempt to take us back to 1970s-style adversarial union activity.”
New Zealand businesses deeply unsettled by labour law reform now have another concern, with lightning strikes deemed an appropriate negotiating tactic, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesman Scott Simpson says.
“Business was ignored in the Government’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which curbs workplace flexibility and undermines a key pillar of New Zealand’s economic growth. In the worst year of strikes in 30, there’s now the prospect of strikes with no warning.
“This week’s Employment Court decision not to rule lightning strikes by Ministry of Justice court staff illegal, even though only 30 minutes notice was given, will only encourage more industrial action and more disruptive tactics.
“A Justice Ministry official has warned of health and safety risks if courts had suddenly to be cleared, especially cases involving angry criminal defendants or rival gang members. Disruptions could also affect time-sensitive cases in the Family Court.
“This Government has only itself to blame for creating high expectations that have emboldened unions to take strike action of the sort we haven’t seen for decades.
“National opposes the Government’s employment reforms. Businesses large and small will bear the brunt if it passes into law as is, which will see pay rises decided elsewhere and union officials able to barge into workplaces unannounced.
“National supports higher wages but the way to increase them is by building a strong economy allowing businesses to grow, create jobs and pay more.”
The Labour-led Government is choosing to ignore the very real fears locals have for their safety when travelling from Tauranga to Katikati by not upgrading the route to four lanes, local MPs for Coromandel and Bay of Plenty Scott Simpson and Todd Muller say.
“The previous National Government had committed to building a Tauranga to Katikati Expressway as part of the next generation of Roads of National Significance, but it is clear now that the new Government has other priorities,” Mr Simpson says.
“This road would have seen a continuous four-lane highway from Tauranga to Katikati with wide lanes, grade separated intersections and a centre barrier to separate traffic coming from the other direction. All vital safety improvements for a modern road.
“In 2016 then Minister of Transport Simon Bridges committed $520 million to build the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL). That project was going to be a completely upgraded four-lane highway and would have been underway by now, if this Government hadn’t slashed highway funding.
“The new plans for the Government’s TNL includes a new two-lane road between Te Puna and Tauranga, with incentives for public transport and high occupancy vehicles.”
“This is woefully inadequate, shows no understanding of the needs of the community, and lacks any future vision for the Bay. It’s been watered down to the point where it’s unrecognisable. It’s the TNL in name only,” Mr Muller says.
“The Bay is booming. We want to see the Government commit to the infrastructure required to support growth and jobs. Unfortunately, Transport Minister Phil Twyford seems unaware that there is life south of the Bombay hills and is taking an Auckland-centric approach.
“This is just one of many examples of the Government stripping funding away from regional New Zealand and feeding it back to Auckland, specifically for Mr Twyford’s pet tram project.
“Regional New Zealand deserves better – and our communities deserve better.
“Under National construction would have begun on the TNL last month, but this Government can’t even give us a start date.”
The Government appears to have heeded National’s warnings on the likely economic damage from its labour law changes, retreating from the worst elements in defiance of its union backers, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesman Scott Simpson says.
“New Zealand is weathering the worst year of strikes in three decades thanks to the Government’s message to its union affiliates that higher wages are in the offing. At the same time, the Government has attempted to dismantle one of the key pillars of economic growth.
“National has opposed the Employment Relations Amendment Bill at every turn, seeking to overturn a package of concessions that empower the union movement and shackle workplaces to less flexible employment rules.
“It is extraordinary that the Government wants to push on with an overhaul of labour law despite figures today that show the jobless rate is falling and employment is growing. But it is a testament to the deep ties between Labour Ministers and the unions.
“Those deep ties must be strained as the Government seeks to backtrack on changes like ending the 90-day rule, forcing businesses into collective contracts and multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs) and giving union officials unfettered access to workplaces.
“Labour may be telling the unions that the back down is at the behest of its coalition partner, New Zealand First, which has undoubtedly heard from businesses large and small of the economic hardship they will face.
“Businesses were ignored during the development of a Bill that will add to their costs, hurt productivity, stifle innovation and do nothing to improve the position of workers.
“A good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy and a future National-led Government will repeal this attempt to take us back to 1970s-style adversarial union activity.”
The Government’s plan to tackle the complex issue of protecting and restoring New Zealand’s freshwater quality is an underwhelming work programme. It’s about setting up more working groups rather than action, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This Government talked a big game during the election and made threats against farmers, like suggesting doubling their proposed water tax if farmers criticised them.
“Today’s announcement is just another working group that kicks water issues to touch until 2020. Although it is concerning that ‘coincidentally’ this is when the Government’s Tax Working Group proposals of a series of new environmental taxes would take effect.
“Farmers and growers will be concerned Labour’s water tax is back on the agenda alongside a whole suite of proposed environmental taxes.
“While the Government tinkers and taxes, National was delivering results. Our plan meant more of the 1500 monitored sites were improving rather than deteriorating, a first for New Zealand.
“National put in place a robust plan for improving freshwater quality and funding to assist in the cost of achieving it. Our National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management introduced a new requirement for our rivers and lakes to be suitable for swimming within a generation and established a system for monitoring and reporting.
“The New Zealand economy – and particularly farmers and growers – need certainty to support making investment decisions. It is not good enough that this Government has delayed making any new environmental changes until at least 2020.
“New Zealanders need to know what potential new taxes they will have to pay, what the rules and prohibitions will be in the proposed new National Environmental Standard, and how it will deal with the complex issue of iwi rights and interests.
“Instead, this Government has just kicked things for touch by announcing a work programme and more working groups.
“We need to keep making consistent progress to ensure our waterways are cleaned up in a way which doesn’t come at a considerable cost or loss of jobs.
“We all agree that we would like our freshwater quality to be improving but this announcement today is long on warm intent and short on action.”