19 Oct 2020

Council of Trade Unions expects government to introduce fair pay agreements

8:29 am on 19 October 2020

The country's leading unionist expects the government to bring in fair pay agreements without the presence of a New Zealand First "handbrake".

10718109 - bus driver sitting in his bus on tour

Bus drivers is a good example of a job that would benefit from the introduction of a fair pay agreement, CTU president Richard Wagstaff said. Photo: kzenon/123RF

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said the Labour Party's sweeping election win will leave it better placed to support workers, and to address poverty and inequality.

He said the CTU expects Labour to get on with a number of things it wanted to do during the last government but was not able to.

"The last government was very clear it was coalition and New Zealand First proudly called itself a handbrake on that coalition on the Labour Party and Greens leading up to the election, well things have changed, this is a different government and we would expect to go further and faster."

Wagstaff said the prime minister had discussed introducing some fair pay agreements, however that was held up due to the coalition and also Covid-19.

It takes an industry approach where a benchmark pay rate for a sector would be introduced which stops employers from bidding wages down, he said.

"We can set the minimum rates across industries that are higher than the minimum wage and we think that's badly needed, bus driving is a good example, people competing for that without a minimum just drive wages down - we want to lift those up to a fair rate."

He said the CTU now expects the government to move quickly to introduce some fair pay agreements.

"We would expect to move in key industries where pay's been held down because of the competitive pressures pushing wages down, we think there's a lot of opportunity - security guards, retail, bus drivers - we'll talk with our affiliates about the opportunities but we certainly need to get the legislation in place."

A fair go for working people and beneficiaries is needed, he said.

Wagstaff said he did not think people would be very tolerant if the new government fails to deliver.

He said fair pay agreements have been expected and the need is there.

"We also know that three years goes past very quickly so we'll be wanting the foot on the pedal hard, fast and we'll be pushing for that."

Wagstaff said it's clear the electorate has spoken and the CTU wants a government that is as progressive as it can be.

He said he did not want to preempt negotiations to form a government but the union movement would be very happy if the Greens were part of the mix.

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