14 Apr 2015

Govt defends zero hours action

12:30 pm on 14 April 2015

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse is defending the time taken to act on zero hour contracts.

Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Government is considering changing labour laws to rule out the most punitive parts of zero hours contracts.

Mr Woodhouse said there were three main areas of concern.

They included shifts cancelled at short notice where employees may have already made arrangments for the likes of childcare, and what he called the punitive restraint of trade.

That's where an employer refuses to commit to a certain number of hours, but forbids the employee from working elsewhere.

Mr Woodhouse said that was unacceptable.

Minister 'dithering' - Labour

Andrew Little during caucas run this morning.

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Labour Party has accused the Government of dragging the chain on the issue.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Mr Woodhouse had to be pressured into taking action.

"This is a Minister who frankly has been dithering. It's only because of public clamour and the campaigning of unions, the Unite Union in particular, that has now seen employers come on board."

But Mr Woodhouse said the timeframe has not been unreasonable.

"I think we've worked pretty quickly to be fair. It came up quite noisily late last year and the Opposition gets to bark at the car. We get to do something about it," he said.

"I'd taken a few months, including the Christmas break, to find out exactly what's going on and what the worst aspects of these arrangements are."

Mr Woodhouse wants the necessary labour law changes before Parliament by the middle of the year.

Earlier he told Morning Report he was encouraged that some companies were reaching agreements with staff but said the law definitely needed to be clarified.

Union battles McDonalds

Last week, Restaurant Brands said it would stop the practice and now Unite Union is locked in battle with McDonalds over its contracts.

McDonalds director of human resources Christine Hutton told Nine to Noon that an offer made yesterday to guarantee workers keep 80 per cent of their rostered hours is a step away from zero-hour contracts.

"Essentially the offer is at this moment based on rostered hours. As a business we roster our people to work hours and they come in and work those hours. What we're saying is that we will secure at least 80 percent of those rostered hours for our people."

Unite Union said the offer is meaningless as the restaurant controls the rosters, and negotiations are due to resume.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs