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May Day Provides Timely Reminder

1 May 2002

Minister of Labour Hon Margaret Wilson has marked May Day with a reminder of the gains made for New Zealand workers under the Labour/Coalition Government.

“Our first action was to rid the country of the Employment Contracts Act which represented the most negative aspects of the National government, “ she said. “It treated employees as `units’, based on a `market rules’ philosophy focused on the dollar bottom line, not on people.

“Labour’s Employment Relations Act has restored the balance in industrial relations and now employers, managers, employees and unions are working together to make New Zealand workplaces more productive and participative.”

Margaret Wilson said the Government had also increased both the adult and youth minimum wage.

The adult minimum wage had risen by 10 per cent from $7 in 1999 (at which level it had been for three years) to $7.7 per hour in 2001, with a further 3.9 per cent to $8 per hour this year, in line with the annual average wage growth.

The youth minimum wage had increased by 28.6 per cent from $4.20 in 1999 (at which level it had been for three years) to $5.40 per hour in 2001, with a rise to $6.40 this year.

Low-income working families would benefit most from Paid Parental Leave entitlements which came into force on July 1, Margaret Wilson said. Eligible new parents would receive payment of up to $325 a week, for up to 12 weeks.

“The government is making key changes to holidays legislation which will see employees working on a public holidays paid at time and a half rates and given a day off in lieu,” she said. “We’re also strengthening sick and domestic leave and bereavement leave entitlements.”

Margaret Wilson said the government had adopted a zero tolerance attitude toward workplace safety and was on track to implement its new Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill this year.

“We are also committed to giving everyone and every group a fair go in employment and a new Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner will be appointed soon to work alongside the EEO Trust.”

Labour’s Modern Apprenticeship Scheme had made it easier for employers to recruit and manage talented young people into their workplace and offer a new generation the chance to access quality workplace learning, Margaret Wilson said.

Anyone wanting information about their employment rights and obligations can take advantage of the Department of Labour’s Info-Line freephone 0800 800 863.

The Info-Line also provides contact with Labour inspectors who enforce legislation like the minimum wage and the Holidays Act.

In addition, the department has a free mediation service which helps employees and employers resolve employment relationship problems.

For further information, contact Leigh Sutton 471 9337 o

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