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Unions Tackle Barriers to Work-Life Balance

Unions Tackle Barriers to Work-Life Balance

Precarious employment arrangements, short-staffing, low pay, long hours, poor access to leave and lack of child-care are the main barriers to workers in balancing work with the rest of their lives, Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont said today.

Releasing a discussion paper on work-life balance at the CTU conference in Wellington, Carol Beaumont said the research would be built on over time and contribute to the Government’s programme to develop policies promoting work-life balance. The Government is expected to make an announcement on this today.

The study builds on the CTU’s 2002 Thirty Families Report, which highlighted that long hours of work was a significant issue for workers and their families, by exploring other aspects of work-life balance that are important to workers.

Discussion about the meaning of work-life balance often draws on such things as free gym memberships and coffee machines at work, Carol Beaumont said.

“However, for unions, the ‘fundamentals’ of decent work such as secure employment, decent pay, leave and working conditions, supported by quality and affordable care arrangements for their families, significantly enhance workers’ ability to balance work with the rest of their lives.

“While part-time work has enabled many workers to choose less hours and spend more time caring for dependants, to study or pursue other interests – it is not a solution that works for everyone, and not everyone can afford to do it,” she said.

The Government, unions and employers all have a role in improving work-life balance for working people, she said.

“The Government must make sure that laws which set out the minimum code for workers’ pay and conditions take into account the need for balance between work and life.

“State sector employers must also recognise and support work-life balance, and ensure it is a basic consideration in policy-making,” Carol Beaumont said.

Unions would continue to bargain for measures in collective employment agreements that improve work-life balance.

“We will also be working to define unreasonable hours of work, and developing guidelines relating to ‘reasonable’ workload levels,” she said.

The CTU would also campaign for law change and ratification of international human rights standards, including changes to the Holidays Act and continuous improvement in the minimum wage, Carol Beaumont said.

Carol Beaumont will deliver the paper this morning at 8.45am. Copies of the discussion paper are available. Information on the CTU’s Get a Life! campaign and the Thirty Families Report can be found on the CTU website: http://www.union.org.nz

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