January 13, 2005
National buying a fight over penals
The National Party’s threat to remove workers’ rights to be paid time-and-a-half on public holidays will cost it at the ballot box, says the country’s largest union.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said that a threat by National’s industrial relations spokesperson, Wayne Mapp, to scrap provisions in the new Holidays Act, guaranteeing everyone who has to work on public holidays extra money, was a bad move.
“Thousands and thousands of people who have to work when most New Zealanders are enjoying time with family and friends are, at last, being fairly compensated, thanks to the changes to the Holidays Act,” he said.
“They will not take kindly to moves to take it off them again.”
Mr Little said that while unions had led the campaign for time-and-a-half on public holidays, it was mainly non-union workers who had benefited.
“Most of our members had retained overtime, penal rates and extra pay for working on public holidays,” he said.
“The people who lost them were people who didn’t have the collective bargaining power of unions.”
Mr Little dismissed claims by some employers that time-and-a-half wasn’t workable in the service sector.
“Our union represents workers in service stations, where time-and-a-quarter has been standard on public holidays for years,” he said, “and you don’t see service stations slapping on surcharges on public holidays.
“It’s time that everyone in the business community recognise that, just as you expect to pay a plumber or glazier more for calling them out on a public holiday, you can also expect to pay your staff more for requiring them to work.”