Press Release – New Zealand First Party
This has got to be a red letter day. Despite being a former union delegate for the most lowly union in the country, the labourers union, a student of industrial law and having a long career in New Zealand politics, this is the first time I have …Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
9 October 2013
Political Panel – NZ CTU Biennial Conference “Good Jobs – Good Government”
Mercure Hotel, Wellington
Wednesday 9 October, 4.45pm
This has got to be a red letter day. Despite being a former union delegate for the most lowly union in the country, the labourer’s union, a student of industrial law and having a long career in New Zealand politics, this is the first time I have been invited to speak to the CTU or past equivalent.
Thank you for the invitation which must surely be a sign of something, but I’m not sure of what.
New Zealand First has always held the position that “the worker is worthy of his/her hire” and that a fair day’s work should be rewarded with a fair day’s pay. The system in this country has become distorted.
It’s due to basic economic problems that successive governments have failed to address.
New Zealand has still not recovered from the oil “shock” of the 1970s. That was when we last had balanced books with our external trade.
We have not diversified our economy, we still act like a primary production colony but with different colonial masters and we fail to capture and develop our best talent.
A lot of our best brains disappear overseas. The country has great natural resources but we need vision, talent and wise economic policies to make the most of them. In short, an export dependent economy needs economic policy to reflect that, not blind ideology which ignores that fact.
We also need to own our resources. The future is grim as a nation of service wage workers.
Our wage structure is contrived. Middle earning taxpayers subsidise the very wealthy and the working poor.
The very wealthy pay little tax and the middle class subsidise the wages of the working poor through subsidised rents via accommodation supplements and wage subsidies like Working for Families.
This system cannot be repaired by simply shouting slogans like a “living wage”.
It needs to be tailored to the work and the conditions of each work place.
For example the cleaners in Parliament – why should they work in the middle of the night, throughout the night for only fourteen dollars an hour?
Why should a manager in Watercare Services in Auckland get three quarters of a million to run a total monopoly service? What market could possibly be operating here?
There is no element of fairness.
New Zealand First believes in a fair go – we campaigned on that and matched it by going on the cross benches to hold the Government to account.
We have a strong record in industrial relations.
In fact, New Zealand First in the confidence and supply agreement of 2005, required Labour to “continue the practice of annually increasing the minimum wage, with a view to it being set at $12.00 per hour by the end of 2008”. Which meant that the minimum wage went up by 25 per cent in just three years. That’s our record.
New Zealand First has supported every increase in the minimum wage.
Some might talk about pay equity, but in 1997, when Treasurer of this country’s finances, New Zealand First introduced pay parity for primary school teachers and removed the discrimination against them that had lasted for over a hundred years. We do believe in same work, same pay.
New Zealand First believes that if the New Zealand economy is to grow sustainably over time, and thereby deliver the social and fiscal dividends we seek, employers need skilled, dedicated, and flexible staff.
Employees need stability in employment and appropriate conditions and remuneration.
Lifting workers’ productivity is identified as the key to improving New Zealand’s international rankings. But any increase in productivity should be matched with an increase in wages.
The level of New Zealand’s unemployed is masked by illusory criteria which say that even one hours work per week means employment. That absurdity must be replaced by sound criteria measurements.
An ideal industrial relations environment is one based on fairness, flexibility, and neutrality between the parties.
New Zealand First would review all industrial relations law to ensure it is consistent with the preceding statement.
Employment of New Zealanders wishing to work is our first priority. It is the reflection of policy failure that the country is actively recruiting trades people and engineers offshore.
New Zealand should be training its own people in these areas.
We say raise the minimum wage, to $15 in the first instance and then add margins for skill and good service;
• Establish an Industrial Relations Advisory Group.
• Amend industrial laws to ensure that casualisation employment practices are fair and just to all parties and work to achieve better job security for individuals now employed on a permanent “casual” basis.
We know of employees employed by the international firm Society Generale de Survaillance refuelling ships on the Wellington waterfront as casual employees FOR AT LEAST FIVE YEARS!
• Disputes emerging over this practice would be referred to arbitration and failure to settle would be passed on to the Employment Court.
• Review the practice of short term employment contracts.
• Conduct research into the makeup of the labour market to ensure that labour market decisions are linked to an accurate reflection of the types of work being undertaken.
• Allocate sufficient resources to enable the Labour Department to give greater emphasis to education (small employers/new entrants to workforce) and OSH inspections.
• Require that salaries paid beyond accepted public service broad bands be cleared with stakeholder ministers in a transparent manner.
• Introduce a new system for establishing the pay and conditions of teachers.
• Introduce a new system of subsidizing wages for employers who take on young, unemployed people for trade training and skills programmes. Initially the young person would be assessed for literacy and numeracy skills. These would be included as part of the training package. It is better that the dole money go towards training rather than paying a school leaver to do nothing. (It is interesting that the Labour Party stole this policy we announced in 2011)
• This system would be available to selected community minded employers for a period of twelve months. Progress of the individual would be monitored. The scheme would have positive outcomes.
• A young person would be trained, he/she would be able to take their place in the workforce. It would have a positive outcome for all involved as long as standards were followed.
However, New Zealand First understands that for an employee or worker to be paid properly, an employer has to have the capacity to do so. That is why our economic policies reflect a serious understanding of just how difficult it is for so many New Zealand businesses today.
That is why our policies aim to give a tax break to employers so that they are able to pay higher wages and still stay competitively in business.
To conclude, our approach is that sound industrial relations law should be bipartisan, fair and enduring. That is, that it has a chance of lasting decades and not just until the next government comes in.
What is lacking in New Zealand today on this issue is that too many political parties choose to take sides. We don’t. We believe in a fair go and that is for the employer and the employee.
Unlike other political parties, we see the government’s role as the impartial umpire or referee. Where the industrial relations goal posts are put in the right place and stay in the right place.
Let’s be rational here. How does it profit an employer to have six years of assistance and then nine years of resistance? Conversely, how does it help the employee or worker to suffer the same fate?
One thing is certain, all great economies seek to build economic and social stability and that can only happen when both profitability and individual incomes are high.