Employers, workers divided on fair pay agreements

Source: 1News

Fair pay agreements, the latest part of employment reform that's proving contentious, are in the spotlight.

The agreements, a settlement of minimum standards of pay and conditions that counts industry-wide, are being debated by workers and employers.

But the gulf between them is wide.

Andrew Ormsby, along with fellow bus drivers, told MPs on Tuesday that fair pay agreements (FPAs) would help because they'd all have the same pay and conditions, including when it comes to health and safety.

“It is not right for us to go to work to be threatened, that somebody will want to kill you,” Ormsby said.

The proposed agreements allow for minimum pay and conditions to be negotiated across an entire industry or occupation, for example, cleaners or bus drivers. employers, unions, business representatives and Government would all be involved in negotiations.

With staff shortages and a slow recovery from the pandemic, employers say now's not the time.

Hotel managers say they've lost more than 50% of their workforce.

“People cannot be hired to clean rooms in Queenstown right now, so if anyone wants to do it for $30, I'm pretty sure I can find you a job right now,” James Doolan from the Hotel Council Aotearoa said.

The struggling hospitality industry says a one size fits all approach won't work.

“This feels like another kick, to be honest, I don't think it's warranted at all, I don't think operators are underpaying their staff, I think people are being looked after,” Hospitality Association’s Jamie Freeman said.

Business NZ took its opposition to the International Labour Organisation, seeking condemnation for FPAs.

The ILO said tweaks may be needed in the final legislation.

“The way it's structured, you're forced to bargain and that's why it's a breach of freedom of association,” Business NZ’s Kirk Hope said.

The pressure is now on all sides to come to a deal on the agreements.

“We're happy to work with the Government on compromises, one of the ways to deal with this issue is to make them voluntarily,” Hope said.