Fair Pay Agreements good news for employees, but contractors need protection too

Cabinet has approved a framework for drafting Fair Pay Agreement legislation. The Public Service Association says this means low-paid workers can look forward to improved and more consistent working lives.

Michael Wood, the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, announced today that the government will introduce FPA legislation later this year. It is expected to pass in 2022.

“For community and home support workers, cleaners, and security guards, insecure work means a daily challenge. All too often, employers compete for contracts by holding down pay and undermining conditions in an endless race to the bottom,” says PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.

“Industry-wide agreements are common in most developed countries. They provide protection and consistency for workers, not just around pay but also for training and safety. We’re very pleased to see concrete progress toward introducing such sensible policies in New Zealand.”

Fair Pay Agreements will make a big difference to workforces the PSA represents, such as home support workers.

Support workers are employed through a fragmented, chaotic system of competing provider companies. The union wants this to be urgently overhauled. The PSA argues Fair Pay Agreements should be viewed as an extension of previous achievements like 2017’s Care and Support Pay Equity Settlement.

Unions and provider companies are now in broad agreement on the need for a fairly paid and well-trained home support workforce with secure, guaranteed hours.

“Implementing a Fair Pay Agreement in the community health sector will make it possible to deliver on promises made years ago. Home support staff deserve consistent, decent conditions like any other health worker,” says Ms Davies.

“Support workers protected us from Covid-19 and dozens were infected while doing so. They were essential then, they’re essential now, and they’ll be essential in future.”

Fair Pay Agreements do not replace existing employment agreements. Instead, they can be the bedrock from which workers negotiate terms and conditions that go beyond those in particular workplaces.

In the current draft, employees are included but contractors are not. Minister Wood has offered assurances this will be addressed in future amendments to the Act.

Fair Pay Agreements can be initiated by any union which demonstrates support from either ten percent or 1,000 employees in a given industry or occupation.

“It’s important no door is left open for unscrupulous employers to undermine Fair Pay Agreements by engaging contractors on terms below those of employees. If any employer misclassifies employees as contractors to avoid compliance, that employer should face penalties,” says Ms Davies.

“Fair Pay Agreements are exciting because not only can they improve working conditions, they can also extend democracy into the workplace. Workers have a right to be involved in making decisions about our lives.”

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