November 8, 2002
Time for extra holiday - union
New Zealand’s largest trade union is promising to throw its weight behind Progressive Coalition Party MP Matt Robson’s bill for a fourth week’s holiday.
“It’s about time,” EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said tonight.
The 55,000-member union – a major Labour Party affiliate - has been campaigning for several years for a fourth week’s annual leave for all workers. It is now Labour Party policy, but the Parliamentary wing of the party has yet to agree to a timetable for its implementation.
During the election campaign in July, the union told Labour politicians that they could expect a political and industrial campaign over the issue after Cabinet member Steve Maharey told employers that the fourth week would not be introduced during this electoral term.
Mr Little said that many of the people he represented worked long hours and had only three weeks’ annual leave a year – the statutory minimum.
“The average working week in New Zealand is 45 hours or more,” he said. “When the third week’s holiday was introduced 1973, most people worked fewer than 40 hours a week.”
Ironically, most of the people saying the country could not afford to give people an extra week’s holiday were already getting at least four weeks themselves, Mr Little said.
“It’s a selfish argument,” he said. “They claim that if those getting three weeks’ leave now get a fourth week, then everyone who’s already getting more than that will want another week too. They’re claiming a sort of holiday inflation.”
Figures prepared in 1998 for the union by prominent economist Brian Easton showed that increasing the statutory minimum holidays to 20 days a year would cost less than $350 million.