Business NZ turns its back on proposed Fair Pay Agreements

Source: 1News

The group representing thousands of employers is turning its back on proposed Fair Pay Agreements, with Business New Zealand refusing to be involved in bargaining over new minimum standards.

Cleaner Josephine Wiredu has been helping keep the windows sparkling and council buildings spotless throughout the pandemic.

“Roughly, I'm getting up to 65 hours a week, not thinking about the quality time that I have to spend with my kids or my partner at home. We need the money,” she said.

The Government has pledged to introduce Fair Pay Agreements to try and lift the conditions of workers such as cleaners, supermarket workers and bus drivers.

New Zealand currency.

However, the minimum standard for pay and conditions must be negotiated between workers and bosses.

“It's about fairness, it's about being offered a great safety experience at our job,” Wiredu said.

However, Business New Zealand is refusing to be part of it.

“Businesses lose their flexibility, sectors lose their flexibility to respond to circumstances, and we've seen the necessity of that through Covid,” boss Kirk Hope said.

It’s turned down the Government’s offer of $250,000 to be a bargaining backstop, leaving the Employment Relations Authority to settle any disputes.

"There might be some agreements that'll be determined by the Authority rather than bargained by a representative of employers,” Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Minister Michael Wood said.

That’s because not every occupation has an industry body that can negotiate on its behalf.

“If you’re a small business from Te Awamutu and you're dragged into this, who is representing you? Who's representing your employees?” Hope said.

However, National workplace relations spokesperson Paul Goldsmith called it “a union-controlled, nationally-centralised mandated system which is the last thing we need”.

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions’ Richard Wagstaff said it’s about “protecting the good employers who want to lift the standards in industries”.

“They can't do that without a proper standard and I think it's those employers who want to drag the system down - they are the only ones with a problem.”

The relationship between business and the Labour Government has been rocky. However, the tension over the agreements is unlikely to go away.

“Thirty years of low-paid employers in New Zealand forgotten about - we're going to take action and make sure they have a fairer go,” Wood said.

Hope added that there is "no doubt these are going to end up in court in some shape way or form".

Further details on the agreements are expected to be revealed next year.