We are tempted on occasion to cry: come back, Winston, all is forgiven. Big chunks of our society would benefit from a tempering influence of the sort exercised by New Zealand First – through its coalition agreement – on Labour-Green policy development and implementation from 2017-20.
Yes, they got in the way of some policies we would have welcomed. But the Peters party frustrated policies to give effect to curiously separatist interpretations of the Crown’s Treaty obligations. And it is credited (or discredited, depending on your perspective) with frustrating the introduction of Fair Pay Agreements (or FPAs, as the alphabet soup aficionados prefer).
But nowadays the Ardern government has a majority in the House, there’s no need for compromises, and she and her team are full steam ahead with Maori wards, a Maori Health Authority and – on the labour market front – a bill to introduce Fair Trade Agreements next year.
FPAs are a set of terms and conditions – including wages and working hours – which employers in a particular sector will be forced to abide by, with the overall aim of raising workplace standards.
We get a whiff of what’s up (a pong, if you are an employer) from a Newshub report which foresees a return to National Awards, a long-abandoned system of wage negotiation based on the principle that basic terms and conditions were best established by the collective workforce.
They laid out minimum wages and conditions across industries, with a Court of Arbitration settling disputes.
Strikes were prohibited – as they will be under FPAs – though they often happened anyway, perhaps because arbitration, or settling disputes, was compulsory at the time.
The National Awards system began to fall apart under the fourth Labour Government, which ended compulsory arbitration. It meant employers could refuse to settle disputes. Unions still had a place and industry bargaining still happened. But the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 dismantled the system and placed greater emphasis on mediation. There were far less strikes as a result.
One consequence was a decline in the strength of trade unions (which provide significant support to the Labour party).
Union density in New Zealand has since continued to decline, from about 42 percent of the workforce in 1991 to 17 percent in 2017.
According to the Newshub report, all employees will be covered by FPAs under Labour’s scheme, even if they aren’t part of a union.
Any union will be able to initiate the FPA process as long as it can demonstrate support from either 10 per cent or 1000 employees in the industry or occupation.
National’s workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson says it’s another indication the Labour Government is “growing more interventionist by the day”.
“This will see 90 per cent of a workforce at the mercy of the other 10 per cent and entire industries bound by agreements, whether they participate in the FPA bargaining process or not.”
But hey. The government has lots of money – enough to allow the spending of tens of thousands of dollars on hauling a dead turtle from Banks Peninsula to Wellington, storing it in a freezer for 21 months, then sending it back to where it washed up
” … for a high-powered and fully-catered powhiri, complete with a helicopter ride and a handmade coffin constructed by public servants. No scientific research was performed at any stage”.
But Ngai Tahu – bless them – got to ensure the dead turtle was dealt with culturally appropriately and DOC reckons this was money well spent.
Our well-heeled government (if we forget about the debt) will provide financial support to both Business NZ and the Council of Trade Unions to help them coordinate FPAs, as well as potentially providing a support person and direct financial assistance to bargaining parties.
Even so, employers are wailing about what the government is doing while the trade unions complain it doesn’t go far enough.
So let’s check out the announcement and other news from the Beehive ….
The Government is delivering on its pre-election commitment to implement Fair Pay Agreements which will improve wages and conditions, as well as help support our economic recovery, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood announced.
Fair Pay Agreements will set minimum standards for all employees and employers in an industry or occupation.
The Government has released details of the process unions and employers will go through to agree set minimum standards that are relevant to their sector.
The Government will now draft legislation, which will be introduced later this year, and is expected to pass in 2022.
The mosques attack – update
Seven members of the Christchurch Muslim community have been appointed to the newly established “collective impact board”, one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 attack on Christchurch Mosques. The board brings community and government representatives together to guide ongoing support services for the families and individuals affected by the attacks.
The seven Community Representatives will make up the majority of the board, alongside six government agency representatives.
The Board will help to guide and further develop the Kaiwhakaoranga Specialised Case Management Service, which has worked closely with the affected community since April 2019.
The Board will select its Chair at its first meeting in early June.
Health Minister has been busy
Sir Mason Durie has been appointed to lead a Steering Group to provide advice to the Transition Unit on governance arrangements and initial appointments to an interim board to oversee the establishment of the Māori Health Authority.
Sir Mason will advise on the best composition of leaders to provide governance support to the interim Māori Health Authority, and on how the Authority will be accountable to both the Government and to Māori “in driving improvement in hauora Māori”.
Oh – and take note of who will be cracking the whip on this one in the Beehive.
Sir Mason will head a Steering Group working to the Transition Unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet . It will focus on:
- involving Māori in identifying candidates for the interim Māori Health Authority board, and supporting Ministers in appointing that board with a mandate from Māori
- providing advice on appropriate options for governance and accountability arrangements for the Māori Health Authority.
The government hopes to confirm appointments to the interim Māori Health Authority board by 1 September.
Under the Government’s youth mental health programme, new contracts to expand youth-specific services across the Northland, Waitematā and Auckland District Health Board areas have been confirmed, providing services for 240,000 young people.
The government now has contracts for dedicated services to support young people with mild-to-moderate mental health and addiction needs in 13 district health board areas across New Zealand. Health Minister Andrew Little says there are more to come.”
The youth-specific services for Northland and Auckland, to cost of $4.6 million over two years, are part of a $455 million programme to increase access to, and choice of, “free” mental health and addiction services.
Free? So where is the money coming from?
Oh, yes. Taxpayers.
Will the programme be discriminatory?
Of course it will. Little says youth are a priority within the programme, alongside Māori, Pacific and young Rainbow New Zealanders.
Andrew Little opened new operating theatres and a cardiac catheter laboratory at Whangārei Hospital yesterday, saying Northlanders will no longer have to go to Auckland for lifesaving heart procedures like angiograms, angioplasty and the insertion of pacemakers.
The cardiac catheter laboratory is expected to treat around 1000 patients a year, and the two new operating theatres bring the total number at Whangārei Hospital to eight.
Both are due to be operational by July 2021.
The facilities are part of the $5 billion the Government has invested in health infrastructure since becoming the government in 2017.
Taxpayers give cyclists a push
The government has approved new funding of $6.745 million for the Queenstown Trails Realignment Project, from Ngā Haerenga, the NZ Cycle Trails Fund. The Queenstown Trail is a hub and spoke network of more than 120 kilometres of recreational, connector and commuter tracks, linking Queenstown, Arrowtown, Gibbston, Lake Hayes Estate, and Jacks Point.
The new project will improve the trail “by realigning it, turning it into a more clearly defined world-class, multi-day cycle route that showcases the history, culture, landscapes, and vineyards in the Wakatipu Basin,” said Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.
The improved trail is expected to attract an additional 65,100 recreational users by 2033 and the project itself will involve about 28 full time jobs each year over the five year build, he said. Let’s see …