BusinessNZ loses case against government at ILO

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(Image from MBIE)

Haydon Munro
Wellington, June 10, 2022

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions has said that it was heartened by the support shown for Fair Pay Agreements at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference in Geneva.

In the formal conclusions adopted by the Committee on the Applications of Standards (CAS) released on June 10, 2022, the ILO noted the discussion on FPAs and encouraged the dialogue to continue between social partners.

The international body ignored the objections raised by BusinessNZ, saying that it found no reason to prevent the legislation from being passed by the New Zealand Parliament.

The outcome and conclusions of the CAS was a vindication of FPA’s came after a thorough discussion of the merits of FPAs this week.

During the discussion, New Zealand’s plans for FPAs received strong support from the Australian and Belgian Governments, who likened the benefits of FPAs to the benefits of their own award systems. Business New Zealand, which is opposed to FPA’s did not have its view endorsed by any countries.

Widespread endorsement

FPAs were also strongly endorsed by multiple worker spokespeople from countries including the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Chile, Samoa, and Australia. The supporters drew attention to NZ’s relative lack of industry standards in employment law and believed the solution was to urgently put FPAs in place.

NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff said that the discussion was very encouraging.

“We are delighted and thrilled by the support shown by other countries, and support from worker spokespeople. Being put on the ILO’s Committee on the Application of Standards shortlist gave us an opportunity to show the merits of FPAs,” he said.

The application to the shortlist was made by Business New Zealand, a move that was termed ‘more political than credible’ by Wagstaff.

“It was basically a publicity stunt that risked eroding New Zealand’s reputation globally, in an attempt to mask the real problems with our wage fixing system that FPAs are designed to address. The lack of support BusinessNZ in the CAS discussion highlighted how out of step their organisation is with other businesses, governments and workers in the international ILO community. It is time for FPAs opponents to stick to the facts. A debate on the merits will show this is a positive change for New Zealand and brings us in line with jurisdictions like Australia that already have a form of modern awards and consistently boast higher wages than New Zealand,” he said.

Hayden Munro is the Public Relations Director at Wellington-based Capital, a public affairs agency offering government relations, strategic communications, digital marketing, and polling and data advice.

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