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8-hour day already a memory under ECA

2000 web site "It is a sad irony that as we celebrate tomorrow the centenary of the eight hour day, it has already become an anachronism for many New Zealanders," Labour employment relations spokesperson Pete Hodgson said today.

"Statistics New Zealand figures show that the proportion of the full time workforce working more than a 40-hour week has risen 20 percent since 1991 - from 34.6 percent to 41.6 percent this year.

"But over the same period, paid overtime has dropped like a stone - falling almost 40 percent.

"In other words, the eight hour day, and its corollary - the concept of premium rates for working overtime - are now no more than a fond memory for increasing numbers of New Zealanders," Mr Hodgson said.

"The Employment Contracts Act has stripped away worker protections and forced thousands of people onto individual contracts. In the process, wages and conditions have been lost.

"The ECA is extreme by western standards. It is too extreme to permit New Zealand to sign up to key International Labour Organisation conventions. These conventions have been ratified by more than 120 countries.

"New Zealand's absence from that list means that we are viewed internationally as some feudal backwater. But the ECA is still not extreme enough for National and Act. They want to tilt the playing field even further against the worker," Mr Hodgson said.

National had already spelt out what its reform agenda was:

· To revive their attack on New Zealanders' holiday entitlements, in effect putting Christmas Day and other public holidays up for compulsory sale.
· To introduce a six month "probation period" during which new workers can be sacked at will.
· To weaken the personal grievance rules governing dismissals and remove discretion from the Employment Tribunal.
· To downgrade or even eliminate the Employment Court.

"Labour Day is a good opportunity to take stock of how much workers have lost under nine years of the ECA and of how much more they would lose under a National-Act coalition.

"Labour would restore some much-needed balance to our industrial relations law by strengthening the protections available to workers and by actively promoting collective bargaining.

"This would bring New Zealand into conformity with the civilised standards of the ILO. But our's is not a radical policy. Voluntary unionism would be retained. Sympathy strikes would continue to be illegal," Mr Hodgson said.

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