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.”
The Employment Relations Amendment Bill will go down as one of this Government’s biggest economic mistakes and a future National-led Government will repeal the provisions, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“National opposes both the ideological basis of this Bill and the specific legislative changes contained in it that will destabilise the New Zealand industrial relations landscape. As a result, the Bill reported back to the House includes our dissenting view as a Minority Report.
“The cumulative impact of changes to workplace relations in this Bill will choke economic growth, further hurt business confidence, stifle job opportunities for vulnerable employees, return us to 1970s-style adversarial union activity and be bad for employees and employers.
“It seeks to grow Trade Union membership and influence, and reinforces the political, historic and financial relationships between the Union movement and the NZ Labour Party.
“BusinessNZ says the Bill is ‘harmful and oppressive’ with none of the provisions of most concern removed. With business confidence low, especially among small firms, BusinessNZ says it is unfortunate ‘the Government hasn’t listened or explained its justification for the Bill’.
“These changes are part of a cluster of half-baked Government policies and reviews that have driven up business risk and uncertainty,” National’s Scott Simpson says. “As former National Minister Steven Joyce notes, this Government ‘is currently rearranging, often negatively, not one or two but nearly every aspect of microeconomic policy’.
“A good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy. This Bill does nothing to achieve that outcome and will have a negative impact on jobs, on costs and the economy.”
The Government is sending a chilling wind into the jobs market by stoking wage expectations and increasing the power of the unions, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Just today we’ve seen slowing data in the ANZ Job Ads series – growth has halved to 5 per cent, year on year, from peaks in recent years of well over 10 per cent. ANZ says there’s a risk of further weakness and if that happens, ‘strength in the labour market could start to ebb.’
“Monthly figures tend to be too volatile to be read in isolation but they follow ANZ’s business confidence survey, which slumped to a 10-year low and saw employment intentions turn negative. Job creation has plummeted by 60 per cent under this Government compared to more than 10,000 new jobs a month under National.
“New Zealanders are right to be concerned that there’s worse to come because the Government is implementing union-friendly, 1970s-style wage bargaining rules that make our businesses less competitive, reduce flexibility and will ultimately hurt workers.
“Employers are also deeply concerned about the flow-on effects of state-sector wage negotiations, especially now that police officers have joined teachers and nurses in rejecting wage increases offered by the Government, sensing they can get more.
“The cumulative impact of this Government’s planned changes to workplace relations risks stalling the economy, further hurting business confidence, and reducing job creation opportunities for vulnerable employees.
“National believes a good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy.
“This Government has a lot to learn about the law of unintended consequences or worse, is indifferent to the impact of their naïve policies. In the real world, they’re hurting both businesses and ordinary New Zealanders.”
Green Party supporters will be bitterly disappointed at the announcement today of more reviews and no action National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The Greens have been forced to swallow a number of dead rats already, and now Labour and NZ First have sent them off to their annual conference with nothing new to announce but reviews and working groups.
“Yesterday the Greens announced that one of the Government’s 140 working groups would consider looking at water bottling – but no real action was taken. Today they’ve said the Ministry for the Environment will have a think about waste disposal.
“We had a plan to expand the waste levy to apply to more landfills so there’s nothing new there. A potential massive increase to the actual levy rate is just another tax which will hurt New Zealand households.
“The National Government announced a scheme last year to deal with end of life tyres, including funding options for their collection and disposal. We also consulted on a National Environment Standard for the outdoor storage of tyres. That was ten months ago and we’ve heard nothing from this Government since.
“I challenge Ms Sage to get on and complete the work that we started, instead of announcing more reviews and talkfests.
“What this weekend has shown is that in spite of all the damage that being part of this Government has done to the Greens credibility and principles, they have no sway, no influence and nothing to show for it.
Environment Minister David Parker’s bull in a china shop approach to resolving freshwater issues in New Zealand is hindering progress on an issue of real importance to all New Zealanders, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Kahui Wai Māori – the Māori Freshwater Forum was established just two weeks ago to resolve issues around Māori rights to fresh water and is now teetering on the verge of collapse after iwi leaders pulled the pin over a lack of consultation.
“To be in this position at such an early stage is a defeat for a Minister who has stated he wants to be judged on his ability to make progress on water issues.
“This is only the start of a long, drawn-out legal battle that could put us back a decade or more in terms of progress on fresh water.
“True to form Mr Parker has arrogantly dismissed the concerns of the iwi leaders. This Government continues to show that it thinks it knows best, that it does not want its ideas challenged, and that it’s quick to insult and denigrate those who disagree with it.
“Water policy remains a confusing mess for parties in Government.
“Before the last election, Labour, NZ First and the Greens claimed that solving water issues in New Zealand was easy.
“Labour campaigned on a royalty on the commercial consumption of water, which would include working with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims. However, as NZ First is opposed to Māori ownership rights that policy was canned when the coalition was formed.
“Meanwhile the Greens are still saying Māori have water rights, but as usual they’re sidelined.
“Winston Peters promised an immediate royalty on bottled water exports if he entered Government – but ten months later the Government’s been told by its own officials that this would breach free trade agreements, though Mr Peters and Mr Parker are also dismissive of that advice.
"National maintains the position that water is not owned by anybody. It’s a public resource and must be managed in the public interest.
“However, we recognise iwi have a particular interest of water within their tribal areas and we amended the RMA last year to ensure iwi have a say in how councils in their region manage freshwater.
“The reason this issue is now going to court is the parties in Government created such high expectations and is now ratting on them.
“National’s approach was considered and moderate meaning we were making progress without ending up in court for nine years. This Government’s managed to end up there in little more than nine months.”