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Luxton Warns Farming Sector Of Labour's ECA Plans

27 AUGUST 1999


Food and Fibre Minister John Luxton today warned against the dire consequences of any industrial relations policy seeking to turn the clock back to the days of strikes and lockouts, saying it would seriously harm New Zealand's vital primary industries.

"Dr Cullen's hysterical outburst in Parliament yesterday was an extraordinary sight. Clearly National struck a nerve when trying to get to the bottom of Labour's ECA policy - unless of course Dr Cullen has something to hide," said John Luxton.

"New Zealand farmers and growers have every right to know what employment policies the Labour/Alliance bloc are proposing because they will directly impact on rural communities and farming families."

"Before the ECA was introduced New Zealand was paralysed by strike action which increased the costs to farmers, crippled our agricultural industries and destroyed jobs in rural communities."

"Labour wants to repeal the Employment Contracts Act so the union movement can revitalise itself and exercise more control over everyone's lives. Labour has no hesitation in returning us to the days when the milk flowed down the drain because of strikes organised by the unions in the middle of the spring and when the lambs weren't collected because of the strikes in the meat works."

Under the ECA New Zealand has enjoyed higher levels of employment and lower levels of industrial strife, than they did under the last Labour Government. Since December 1990 when National took office, employment has grown by over 18%. In contrast in the 5 years prior under Labour, registered unemployment increased by over 106,000.

Under the ECA, industrial conflict has fallen to its lowest level since 1935. In the last 3 years, work stoppages involved about 106,000 lost working days and about $14 million in lost wages. Under Labour's last term, there were 8 1/2 times as many working days lost (905,960 days), and 7 times more lost wages ($100m).

"The Employment Contracts Act has been hugely beneficial to the farming sector. It has allowed more flexibility, encouraged modern workplace practices, boosted rural employment and incomes and contributed to the growth of food and fibre exports. Why mess with success?" Mr Luxton concluded.


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