Former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger will lead the Government's latest working party on establishing fair pay agreements, taking the total working parties or inquiries to about 105.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government had a vision for a highly skilled an innovative economy, delivering good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages, while supporting economic growth and productivity.
The best way to create a high-wage economy was through productivity growth. The aim of the agreements was to prevent a race to the bottom, he said.
“We must ensure workers and businesses benefit from economic growth. While wages have generally grown in the top-two and bottom-two deciles, wages for middle New Zealand have not kept up and, as a result, feel squeezed by rising costs _ particularly housing.”
Through the team led by Jim Bolger, the Government intended introducing legislation to allow employers and workers to create fair pay agreements setting minimum employment terms and conditions for all workers in the industry or occupation covered by the agreement, Lees-Galloway said.
The agreements would help lift wages and conditions and ensure good employers were not disadvantaged by paying reasonable, industry-standard wages.
“It is time to move towards new models of bargaining. It is time New Zealand adopts a sector-level approach that is common across the developed world.”
Bolger and his team of 10 would develop recommendations on the design of a fair pay agreement system and report back by the end of the year.
The Government would work closely with businesses, organisations and workers to develop a new and enduring frame work to the benefit of employers and workers.
Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff, himself a member of the working party, said the announcement was a turning point from 30 years of struggle for working people, for home-grown business, and small communities sustained by Kiwi industries.
The last government said low wages were New Zealand's competitive advantage. Fair pay agreements put New Zealanders first and showed the real competitive advantages were Kiwi values of dignity, opportunity and respect, he said.
The Task Force:
- Jim Bolger, former prime minister and labour minister.
- Stephen Blumenfeld, director, Centre for Labour, Employment and Work at Victoria University.
- Steph Dyhrberg, partner Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law.
- Anthony Hargood, chief executive Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union.
- Kirk Hope, chief executive BusinessNZ.
- Vicki Lee, chief executive Hospitality New Zealand.
- Caroline Mareko, senior manager, communities and participation Free Kindergarten Association.
- John Ryall, assistant national secretary E tu.
- Isabelle Sin, fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research and adjunct senior lecturer at Victoria University.
- Richard Wagstaff, president Council of Trade Unions.
*Dene Mackenzie is business and political editor of the Otago Daily Times.