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Proposed holiday law changes show lack of trust

Proposed holiday law changes show lack of trust

Comment on the Holidays law reform has predictably focused on the cost to the economy of businesses having to pay workers more for producing less.

However, the most damaging aspect of the Government’s proposals to boost workers’ holiday entitlements may well be what it does to reinforce the message of a return to old-style “cradle-to-grave” socialism and distrust of business intentions.

The message coming through to business reads: “Government lacks good faith and trust in employers to do the right thing with employees – so let’s whack them into line with prescriptive holiday and sick leave laws they must deliver to all staff.”

Are we going down a wrong track here? Surely, in a modern market-led economy employers and staff should be trusted and encouraged to work through mutual arrangements on extended holidays and sick leave; arrangements that take into account family circumstances and lifestyle interests.

Isn’t “good faith” bargaining at the core of our employment relations practice? Where is the encouragement for an employer and employee to negotiate holiday arrangements based on productivity or some other mutually agreed performance basis? Where is the incentive to employees to build a relationship of trust with their employer to do the right thing, and to negotiate a holiday and sick leave entitlement as part of their overall employment package?

I certainly am perplexed, if not cynical of a political process that sees the Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Deputy and Finance Minister Michael Cullen extolling business to grow a bigger economy, while in the engine room the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson and Progressive Coalition MP Matt Robson push as hard as they can to put more risks and obstacles in the pathway of growth.

It is very clear that in this instance Government’s political agenda is at cross purposes with its economic objectives. Sadly, this legislation undermines the Government’s own

rhetoric seeking to encourage more businesses – employers and employees – to build progressive and innovative world-leading businesses that contribute to lifting New Zealand’s economy.

At the end of the day, the talk has not been supported by action encouraging employers and employees to seek out a thriving, growth-focused new order based on mutual trust and good faith. Instead, Government has shown by its action that it doesn’t trust employers to do the right thing with their staff; that’s why it has decided to return to “cradle-to-grave” socialism and throw another wet blanket over efforts of innovative businesses trying to achieve their growth goals.

There is still time to pull the bill from the parliamentary programme or at the very least put it under a “growth lens” test to see how it will add new investment, innovation and, most important of all, trust to the Government-business partnership required to build a better New Zealand.

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