Finance Minister Bill English says the Labour Party's Work and Wages policy is outdated.
Labour's proposed industry standard agreements would initially be collective agreements between unions and employers and could lead to an industry minimum set of pay and conditions.
Mr English says this is just the old national awards system re-released and the policy is a throwback to the 1970s.
But Labour leader Phil Goff says the policy would not introduce centralised wage setting and it would not be permissible for workers to strike over the agreements.
Business New Zealand says the policy will hurt small businesses.
Chief executive Phil O'Reilly told Morning Report that central wage bargaining in the 1970s and early 1980s led to inflexible working conditions.
He said unions will have too much power if Labour's policy is adopted.
Mr O'Reilly said different companies have widely different needs and businesses won't be able to be competitive if minimum standards are introduced.
The Council of Trade Unions says the policy is not a return to the national awards system.
CTU president Helen Kelly told Morning Report it is no longer right to rely on a system where business is the only player in setting terms and conditions.