Why MWU won't give up on Fair Pay Agreements

Fair Pay Agreements are in the news this week as the CTU calls for progress on this, and media commentaries suggest that there is a developing rift between Labour and unions.

 Fair Pay Agreements as Labour Party policy have been fought for by Affiliated Labour Unions since 2014.  Originally called Industry Standard Agreements, and driven by Helen Kelly, there was comprehensive policy adopted by the Labour Policy.

Helen Kelly often made the case by comparing the situation of a Four-Square worker in Kaitaia and how difficult it was for her to join a union and become part of collective bargaining under our current (despite amendments) employment legislation.

Since then, there has been a Working Group report led by the former PM Hon Jim Bolger, who has reflected and quite bravely owned up to the impact of the policies his government introduced in the 1990’s with the Employment Contracts Act.

The case was well made out in the Working Group’s report and has been repeated elsewhere, even in the OECD and IMF who have noted that New Zealand has one of the lowest level of collective bargaining in the OECD.

Today a Discussion Paper has been released.  It recognises that wages need to be lifted and the economic system is failing workers ; and that Fair Pay Agreements will help fix this.

Predictably, the Business Sector has continuously opposed the idea of improving standards in industries for those who are most likely not to have collective agreements or be able to join unions. They continue to maintain that any improvements that will increase the share of the labour workers provide workers have are “1970s or 1980s.”

The media are of playing this up as a loss for the Labour Party and a rift with Unions. Of course, unions are disappointed that this flagship policy appears to have stalled.  Reading between the lines there are two things : first is the Coalition votes and the second is Business Confidence reaction, which gets more headlines than the reality for many workers.

Unions will never give up.  We union fighters know it sometimes takes years for unions win, but we do and we have.  Think four weeks annual leave, paid parental leave, health and safety, minimum wage.

Fair Pay Agreements are an essential part of a fair economy.  It’s just not good enough to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everyone is better off.  They’re not.

The CTU has now launched this campaign to ensure working people's voices are heard in the consultation around the design of Fair Pay Agreements, and to ensure the coalition government gets on with it.  

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