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Workers' package for Labour Day

2000 web site "Labour's minimum code and occupational safety and health policies are designed to strengthen the protections available to workers and to reverse some of the worst ravages of the last nine years," Labour industrial relations spokesperson Pete Hodgson said today.

"That is why we have chosen to release them on Labour Day. We like the symbolism.

"Immediately on taking office, Labour will review the minimum wage - now set at $7 an hour for adults and $4.20 for the youth rate - and lower the age of eligibility for the adult rate from 20 to 18.

"We will also beef up the status of the minimum code by legislating for a Minimum Code of Employment Rights Act.

"Not only is New Zealand's current minimum code patchy, but it is patchily enforced. The Labour Department Inspectorate is scandously under-resourced. As at 30 June it had only 19 people to cover the whole country, and one of them was a manager.

"Labour will give it the resources to do the job.

"National wants to reduce New Zealanders' holiday entitlements. Labour will protect them by putting higher fences around them. We will:
· Guarantee all full time workers 11 paid public holidays a year and all part-timers their appropriate portion of that entitlement.
· Guarantee a minimum overtime payment plus a day in lieu for working on a public holiday.
· Establish a right to be paid for public holidays falling soon after termination of a job to discourage employers from laying off workers on, say, Christmas Eve or just before Easter.
· Provide in law for annual leave to be cumulative to a specified minimum extent.

"We will also establish clear rights to sickness and special leave and legislate for six weeks taxpayer-funded parental leave with the intention of raising that to 12 weeks as soon as economic conditions permit," Mr Hodgson said.

"Labour Leader Helen Clark is firmly committed to workplace equality and, as Minister of Labour in the 1987 Government, passed the 1990 Employment Equity Act. Jenny Shipley's first decision as Minister of Women's Affairs in the 1991 Bolger Government was to strike Helen Clark's ground-breaking legislation from the statute books.

"The provisions of the 1990 Act would not be effective in the labour market created by nine years of the Employment Contracts Act because the ECA has wiped out the delivery mechanisms on which the Act depended.

"But Labour's commitment to employment equity remains strong. We will establish an Employment Equity Office within the Labour Department to monitor the implementation of equal opportunities programmes in both the public and private sector and to advise government on strategies to advance pay equity issues.

"Too many New Zealanders head off to work only to be injured or, in some cases, killed. New Zealand's workplace safety record is poor by international standards and a variety of preventable injuries, such as occupational overuse syndrome, are leaving workers temporarily or permanently crippled.

"We will therefore strengthen the occupational safety and health regime, primarily by giving employees a bigger voice through the election of OSH representatives or committees in workplaces.

"Labour wants to involve industries more closely in improving safety standards and through the Accident Compensation Corporation will fund industry sector organisations to deliver education and prevention programmes. OSH will be asked to focus on monitoring and enforcement only. Their monopoly on prosecutions will be removed.

"The great majority of New Zealand employers treat and pay their workforce fairly. Those businesses have nothing to fear from Labour. In fact, we will be offering a range of measures to assist innovative enterprises reach their full potential. But the ratbags - that tiny minority who exploit their staff - should understand that a Labour Government will not tolerate worker exploitation," Mr Hodgson said.

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