Do you approve of the Fair Pay Agreement Bill?

Opposition Parties and businesses are very critical

Venkat Raman
Auckland, April 1, 2022

The Labour government has just introduced its long-promised ‘Fair Pay Agreement’ to be negotiated between employers and employees but the two opposition parties and BusinessNZ were quick to denounce it as ‘harmful’ and a ‘major step backwards.’

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood, who tabled the Bill in the Debating Chamber this afternoon, described his proposed Bill as ‘an investment in people.’

“Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) have long been a part of our wider work programme focused on lifting the wages of those on low to medium incomes and ensuring better wages for employees is even more essential now as we begin to feel the global economic pressures caused by the war in Ukraine,” he said.

Opportunity for Unions

New Zealand already enforces the minimum wage for all workers of all classes, which is currently set at $21.20 per hour.  In addition, employment of migrant labour in many sectors is at a higher threshold. The proposed Fair Pay Agreement will provide another opportunity for unions to negotiate wages with their respective employers.

But achieving a Fair Pay Agreement is not as easy as it sounds. It can be initiated only by a union that is eligible and prove that it has at least 10% of the employees or 1000 employees in the industry or occupation. It can progress only if there is a public interest, where employment issues such as low pay and limited bargaining power exist.

“Parties can agree to have regional differences in terms in a Fair Pay Agreement. In some instances of financial hardship, bargaining parties can agree to give businesses limited, time-bound exemptions to such Agreements,” Mr Wood said.

The proposed legislation excludes contractors, but Mr Wood said the government will introduce a new proposal to protect this sector. However, employers who deliberately otherwise eligible employees as contractors to circumvent the law will face penalties.

Grants for coordinators

Mr Wood said that government will offer an annual payment of $250,000 for three years each to the New Zealand Central Trade Union and BusinessNZ to support their role in coordinating Fair Pay Agreements, identifying and supporting bargaining parties and helping to raise awareness about Fair Pay Agreements and the bargaining process.

In addition, the bargaining parties will receive up to $50,000 per year towards the cost of bargaining based on the Agreements.

The Kashmir Files: The essence of Horrible Histories

Nothing has created so much controversy, so much heat, so many emotions and unfortunately, so wide a division in the society, as The Kashmir Files, a Hindi film did last month.

Everyone, from past Parliamentarians and present-day leaders to people who were neither direct victims of the Kashmir Insurgency that occurred more than 30 years ago nor even from India, felt that they should throw their bit into the fire: criticise the Chief Censor and worse, the government which had nothing to do in the decision-making process.

On the face of it, ‘The Kashmir Files’ is a narration of a tragedy that saw thousands of people- both Muslims and Hindus, the latter known as Kashmir Pandits-killed in one of the worst tragedies of human existence. The Insurgency is a part of the Horrible Histories that no one wants to repeat and curiously no one wants to forget.

An avoidable tragedy

This is not a hearsay story. Our Editor witnessed some of the terrible happenings in 1989 and 1990 and reported them. It is a fact that Pandits were targeted by Islamists backed by Pakistan during a cataclysmic surge in violence. Police protection was scant. All but a few fled, never to return. Official reports and scholarly research suggest that hundreds were murdered, among the 14,000 civilians, 5000 Indian soldiers and 22,000 militants killed during the past three decades of strife in the Valley.

The Kashmir Files controversy prompted us to run a two-page special in our just released March 1, 2022 Digital Edition. There are many other stories in our usual departments.

Please read and share with your colleagues, associates, family and friends.

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