The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions continue to support the delivery and implementation of the Fair Pay Agreements (FPA’s) legislation that the government has been working on for several years, and which has been included in their past two manifestos, says CTU President Richard Wagstaff.
“FPA’s are common in workforces around the rest of the world. For example, Australia has these and has a strong growing economy with higher wages, and higher productivity than New Zealand.
“Fundamentally, FPAs are about putting in a minimum floor for wages and conditions. They prevent unscrupulous employers from forcing the costs of competition onto workers and their families.
“Just as we have a minimum wage in New Zealand, Fair Pay Agreements will provide a statutory minimum. There will also be an ability to vary agreements regionally, to reflect local economic conditions. All firms will still be required to negotiate individual or collective agreements with their staff and in the process be free to negotiate with their employees for anything above this baseline. An FPA simply provides a minimum floor on core conditions to prevent the race to the bottom we currently experience.
“Fair Pay Agreements are necessary to provide fair pay and conditions for many New Zealanders who are barely coping on current wages. Their wages have hardly moved for many years, but housing costs have rocketed, and food and other costs continue to rise. They are working hard and getting nowhere. Many of these New Zealanders in industries such as supermarkets and security and cleaning, were paid little more than the minimum wage while they have been putting the health, if not the lives of themselves and their families at risk, continuing to do their job during the COVID pandemic.
“The draft Fair Pay Agreement system will allow any registered union to initiate bargaining for an FPA. They don’t need to be a union affiliated to the CTU, and the CTU does not have any monopoly on the process as has been suggested incorrectly today. Resources have been provided for bargaining parties- whether affiliated to the CTU or not – to help them engage with the FPA process.
“Nothing in the draft FPA proposals would have prevented the government or businesses from responding to COVID. FPA’s would not have prevented the Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Leave Support Scheme, or any other form of support. Indeed, FPA’s may even have made the process of responding to a pandemic or future economic shock simpler – by giving each employee and employer clear expectations. This would have reduced the number of cases going to employment court rather than increased them.
“FPAs as currently drafted would make it much simpler for employees to request flexibility in their work. Currently each employee must negotiate separately with an employer, and they may often not have any process to start that conversation. FPAs may create these processes and provide some minimum standards for how flexibility might be provided. FPAs will not stop employees and employers from discussing how they can work together to deliver better flexible working arrangements.
“FPAs have always been envisioned as being applicable to workforces around New Zealand and in every sector of the economy. But they will only start if at least 10% of the workforce or 1,000 workers actively request such an agreement. We expect that at the commencement only a few workforces such as Bus Drivers will want to start the process of such negotiations.
“The CTU believes that good employers across New Zealand will be looking forward to working positively with unions and employees on FPAs. They will drive productivity, sustainable economic growth, and will ensure that there is good work and great workplaces across the country,” says Richard Wagstaff.