March 25, 2008
Meal-break law about fairness
The new meal-break law will make a huge difference to tens of thousands of New Zealand workers says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.
While nearly all unionised workers already have paid breaks and lunch-hours written into their collective agreements many working New Zealanders don’t have the same enforceable rights and have been missing out for years.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says there is plenty of evidence that workers are missing out on decent breaks.
“One of the biggest problems we hear of from non-members that call our support centre 0800 number is lack of breaks.
“Just last week we had a call from a non-union worker at a BP franchise who was working a seven hour nightshift with no breaks whereas EPMU members at BP-owned sites get a minimum of two short paid breaks and a half hour lunch-break that is paid or unpaid depending on circumstances.
“Unfortunately, too many employers have the attitude that if it’s not in the law they don’t have to provide for it.”
“The old Factories and Commercial Premises Act used to provide for breaks during the working day, but that went in 1992 under the previous National government and there was nothing put in its place. The proposed new law marks another win by union members for every working New Zealander.
“Getting a decent break time is an issue of fundamental fairness and of healthy work practices, and the employer groups that are whinging about this legislation frankly are protesting too much. They would do better to educate their members about fair treatment of workers – if they know how.”
The EPMU represents fifty thousand New Zealand workers across eleven industries.