Mixed views on workplace policies

Virginia Nicholls
Virginia Nicholls
An employers group in the South has taken aim at the Labour Party’s workplace relations policies, saying they would impose more costs on businesses at a time when government should be looking to do the opposite.

The Labour Party is promising to double minimum sick leave entitlements for workers to 10 days a year and raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour.

Labour is also promising, among other pledges, to legislate for fair pay agreements, recognise security guards as vulnerable workers, improve Seafarer Welfare Centres and to strengthen the Employment Relations Act to make it harder for collective agreements to be undermined.

The party also wants to extend living wage guarantees to workers employed by public service contractors — initially with cleaners, caterers, and security guards.

The Otago Southland Employers Association is concerned raising the minimum wage will make life harder for businesses already struggling with the raise in the bottom wage earlier this year.

"Increasing sick leave will assist workers but add cost to employers," the association’s chief executive, Virginia Nicholls, said.

"Increasing the minimum wage fails to appreciate or understand the difficulties that businesses are facing, particularly small businesses who are already hard hit by this year’s $1.20 increase at the beginning of the lockdown."

She said requiring that public sector contractors pay their staff the living wage will increase the Government’s wage bill and impose more costs on employers.

"The Government should be leading by requiring restraint in the imposition of costs."

She also said fair pay agreements (FPAs) would increase costs and reduce productivity — and a compulsory system of FPAs may not be legal under international law.

"Overall we would urge the Government to consider delaying imposing extra costs of employers, focusing instead in helping them remain viable and capable of retaining their employees," Mrs Nicholls said.

Unions have praised the policies Labour has put forward for workplace relations and safety.

"Working people in unions have been campaigning for better treatment at work. Labour’s industrial relations policy has the potential to achieve just that — significant improvements to people’s working lives," Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Richard Wagstaff said.

Mr Wagstaff was particularly pleased with the doubling of sick leave, saying thousands of people signed the organisation’s petition for "safer sick leave — and we are delighted that our campaign has won".

Speaking in an Etu statement praising the policies, National Library cleaner Mareta Sinoti said that the extra sick leave is desperately needed.

“I work in a public area where we are careful about keeping people safe; especially with Covid-19 we are always cleaning and sanitising workplaces as part of our job.

“It will be better for everyone when Labour give workers more sick leave so that we can look after our health and our families properly.”


Given that 70% of NZ businesses do not have any employees it is fairly clear that the Otago Southland Employers Assn is representing a very small, elitist, minority.
There is no mention of the fact that those businesses are totally dependent on their staff to generate their profits. If, overnight, they had no staff they'd all go broke in a day or two.
It is telling that they see providing a few minimum protections to their staff as an unfair imposition on them. Every time the minimum wage increases they predict the end of times is upon us. Every time they are wrong.
The truth is that they see employees as just another resource that they should be able to utilise as they see fit.
Well, staff are human beings, they are citizens and they have rights. It's long past time that this very small minority of employers started treating their employees as partners and worked with them to the benefit of all.

On point Ird! Nicholls parroting what her members expect & what she believes.






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