11 Mar 2009

Unions mixed over nine-day fortnight scheme

10:04 pm on 11 March 2009

The Government has announced more details of its nine-day fortnight scheme to save 25,000 jobs in the recession, drawing a mixed response from unions.

Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday outlined details of the $20 million plan targeting companies with more than 100 employees that are forced to consider redundancies because of the recession.

Workers who agree to drop a day's work a fortnight will get the adult minimum wage of $12.50 from the Government - but for only five hours a fortnight.

The subsidy will be paid for a maximum of six months. The scheme starts in about two weeks and will continue until the end of 2010.

Mr Key says there is nothing to stop employers making a contribution to help offset the loss of wages for their employees - and he hopes they will do so.

Mr Key told Checkpoint the scheme is better than doing nothing and watching workers lose their jobs. However, a more generous contribution from the Government would be too costly.

But New Zealand's biggest private sector union criticised the scheme as a miserable subsidy which will be rejected by workers.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says the scheme is disappointing and falls short of what was discussed at the recent job summit.

The union's national secretary, Andrew Little, says unless employers contribute some money, workers are unlikely to agree to the scheme.

However, the Council of Trade Unions welcomed the Government's allowance for workers opting for a nine-day fortnight.

CTU president Helen Kelly says she hopes employers will also help top up the lost day's pay for workers.

Ms Kelly says there are already some firms wanting to negotiate nine-day fortnights to avoid redundancies.