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Higher costs likely for households

Higher costs likely for households

Household budgets across will be stretched tight if current wage demands by the Engineers Printing Manufacturing Union (EPMU) are accepted.

Negotiations for the country’s benchmark collective bargaining have begun and indications are that a much higher rate than inflation will be agreed. Although employers (represented by the Employers and Manufacturers Association) are already offering a 4.25 per cent increase – which is above the rate of inflation – the unions are holding out for seven per cent.

The negotiations cover the largest private-sector industrial agreement in New Zealand, covering 2000 workers at more than 200 companies. Colloquially known as ‘the metals’, the agreement is the most influential document in wage negotiations in the country.

Auckland employment relations expert Max Whitehead of the Whitehead Group says the Metals was raised as the unions’ benchmark during every one of the 12 collective negotiations he has been involved with in the last 12 months.

Max Whitehead says, “I can’t believe the EMA, which is negotiating this agreement on behalf of the employers, would offer anything over inflation; there is no logic to this. For everyone else in New Zealand, accepted costs have gone up 3.4 per cent so why does the EMA think metals employers should hand over more?”

Since these negotiations have such a dramatic effect on all collective bargaining, Max Whitehead predicts any agreement accepted will increase the rate of inflation and this will impact on every household in the country.

“Employers giving away to union wage demands in the 1970s caused a blow-out of inflation, resulting in the Muldoon Government’s wage freeze. With labour costs increasing, productivity will decrease which has the potential to affect our overseas balance of payments,” says Max Whitehead.

He believes the EMA needs to show strong leadership and reject the union’s demands.

“Last year, the union got its five per cent because the EMA walked away from the negotiating table. It did so not because of the union but because it could not get agreement from its own employers.”

Max Whitehead says, “In negotiations you need to show strong leadership and have integrity in your arguments and offers. If you look at the inflationary facts there is simply no justification to offer more.”


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