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Statement on four weeks leave - Anderton

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development
5 March 2003 Speech notes

4 weeks leave

Statement to the House on four weeks leave

Like other members of this house I spend a lot of time in airports, often late at night.

And I often see people – usually women, in fact usually Pacific Island women, -- who clean those airports late at night.

Imagine you have a life where you have to get up in the morning and make lunches for your kids and get them to school, and then you might have a part time job during the day.

Then you have to pick up the kids from school, make their dinner and then go out to work again, cleaning floors and toilets, then trying to get some rest before you get up and start over again.

That is the life of many people who enjoy no more than three weeks annual leave.

Governments, Parliaments, parties, communities need to do what we can for those families.

They want to work hard, and we should encourage that.

We should reward their hard work, and we should ensure they have time with their children and time to recuperate as well.

It is for working families like this that we need to make progress.

It is for them that Matt Robson’s bill should be supported.

It is for working families like this that economic development is a priority.

The whole point of economic development is to improve social well-being – to improve the standard of living of all New Zealanders.

And it is not possible to develop the New Zealand economy meaningfully without lifting all New Zealanders up.

I want everyone who opposes this bill to state clearly how much leave they take each year.

I want them to state why they deserve four or five or six weeks, while working people with the least bargaining power deserve only three.

Do they work harder than women who raise a family and work in poorly paid jobs early in the morning and late at night?

The most urgent issue facing nearly every working family today is the need to balance work and family.

And if political parties are serious about supporting families then they will support this bill.

This bill should be renamed – not the ‘4 weeks leave’ bill, but the ‘more time for working families’ bill.

It means more time for parents with their kids.

It means more time for working people to interact with the community – their social and cultural organisations and their churches.

Four weeks minimum annual leave is part of the solution to two significant problems facing New Zealand workers – over work and under-employment.

It gives workers more time away from the workplace, and in a small number of cases, employers will hire staff to cover these breaks.

This Bill will lead to productivity increases, because it will increase – in a minor way – the incentive to get more work done in less time.

Economic development is not going to be improved by trying to cut costs and compete on the basis of being the cheapest provider.

This is the issue the Opposition doesn’t yet understand.

If we want higher incomes, then we need to increase incomes not cut them.

We need to compete on the basis of creativity, talent and innovation, not on the basis of cutting wages and conditions.

Many workers already enjoy four weeks leave.

Setting a minimum will ensure that those with the least bargaining power also see some of the benefits of economic development.

It has been thirty years since the minimum annual leave entitlement was last increased.

In 1972, many more mothers were working in the home.

Now, most women are in the workforce.

In 1945, eighteen per cent of all women working 20 or more hours a week were married – less than one in five.

By 1996, 76 per cent of the mothers of teenagers were in paid work – that’s three quarters.

As are a a third of women with a baby under one year and half of the mothers of one to four year olds.

Our laws need to keep pace with the changes in society, and provide holiday leave that reflects the fact that with the demands on both parents to work in paid employment – there is a greater need to provide holiday time.

Current holiday provisions are a quarter of a century out of date.

The path to economic prosperity does not lie in demanding that families work even harder.

Prosperity will result –in part at least – from reducing the pressure on families and making it easier for them to function fully in the community.


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