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Mallard - Labour: Improving the lives of workers

Speech Notes
Hon Trevor Mallard
Member of Parliament for Hutt South

9 October 2008

Labour: Improving the lives of workers

Hon Trevor Mallard speech to the Council of Trade Unions labour relations election forum.

Labour is proud to be the workers’ party, we are proud of our record in making the lives of workers better, and we are proud there are so many more workers.

We have achieved a lot, but there is a lot left to do in terms of improving the lives of hard-working Kiwis. I can assure you we the plan to do this, and to do it well.

And under Helen's leadership we can be trusted to deliver.

In this election it is important to remember that when it comes to the opposition, they have always been anti-worker.

National has attacked every major Labour policy aimed at making life better for working New Zealanders.

They voted against KiwiSaver, and have now confirmed that they have no realistic plan or even vision for New Zealand's future with John Key's promise yesterday to totally gut this savings scheme in favour of tax cuts for New Zealand's wealthiest earners. Saving and investing for a safe future under Labour would - under John Key - become a raid on our piggy banks as he dismantles KiwiSaver.

Productive workplaces and planning for a high wage, innovative economy are also out thanks to John Key's axing of the research development tax credit. And already on the news this morning we've heard signals from businesses on the ground that he will be sending our top innovative companies offshore.

They voted against working for Families, cheaper doctor visits, 20 hours free preschool and the raised trainee minimum wage.

They opposed the Employment Relations Act, they opposed the Holiday's Amendments Act, they opposed the introduction of paid parental leave and subsequent expansion of the scheme, and they opposed all increases to the minimum wage.

Any flip-flops or pretence that they actually do care about workers and their families can not be trusted.

Let me run quickly through just some of our achievements.

We have increased the minimum wage every year since 1999 and lifted the minimum adult wage by 61 per cent ($5.00) so it's now $12 per hour.

We will continue to use increases in the minimum wage as a way of helping the lowest paid in society.

Labour introduced and then extended paid parental leave in duration and to the self-employed. Earlier this year (March) we hit the 100,000 recipients mark. As Helen said then, Labour is committed to ongoing reviews and improvements to paid parental leave.

Workers’ rights to basic and minimum meal and rest and breastfeeding breaks have been put into law and come into effect next April.

Protections for casual and temporary workers have been introduced to Parliament which will see a Code of Employment Practice for Casual and Non-Standard Employment so employers and employees can understand the entitlements

Our agenda for the workplace is ongoing.

Today I am releasing a new report from the Public Advisory Group on Restructuring and Redundancy which has recommended to government a statutory minimum for redundancy compensation.

Our government agrees and I am pleased to announce that we intend to consult on options for this and a statutory minimum notice period next year.

The current law offers no statutory entitlements to employees for notice or compensation in the event of redundancy, unless these were provided in their employment agreement.

This means that employees who are made redundant who do not have these protections negotiated into their employment agreements may not have support.

Introducing a minimum floor for redundancy compensation and notice would bring New Zealand’s legal protections in to line with international trends and be consistent with recent developments in the minimum code.

Let me briefly discuss the issue of lifting productivity.

Labour believes very firmly in the importance of constructive partnerships between employers and employees to drive higher wages and lift productivity.
Higher wages are not only good for workers and their families – but they are
also a key factor in incentivising employers and businesses to upskill and
train their staff, and to invest in capital equipment to support a more
skilled workforce, and to enhance management skills, and workplace practice.

KiwiSaver is an example of one of the ways productivity can be enhanced, as by improving New Zealand’s savings position, a domestic capital investment pool will exist to help with improving our technology and our knowledge – but John Key obviously cares little about our savings problems and lack of local capital.

Our massive investment in skills and industry training and policies like Schools Plus are also critical parts of this programme.

In short, Labour has an impressive record of delivering significant improvements to the lives of working New Zealanders and we have more to do and we can be trusted to do it.

ENDS

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