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Proper Debate on Holidays Legislation Needed


26 November 2003
Proper Debate on Holidays Legislation Needed

The New Zealand Business Roundtable came out today in support of the National Party and ACT New Zealand position that the four weeks' holiday provision in the Holidays Bill should have been the subject of a proper select committee process.

"Coming after the shabby way in which the Supreme Court Bill was steamrolled through the House, the holidays legislation is a travesty of proper lawmaking", Roger Kerr, NZBR executive director said today.

"The government had said it would not legislate for an extra weeks' leave in this parliamentary term. All the select committee considered was a members bill providing for four weeks' leave proposed by Progressive Coalition member Matt Robson. This was never subject to extensive debate. Now the government has incorporated the four weeks' leave provisions into the Holidays Bill which it proposes to pass, with effect from 2007. Opposition parties are right to regard this as misleading and deceptive conduct.

"It is also a fraud on workers and the community, as the costs of this political bribe will fall mainly on them. Parliament can't improve employment conditions by writing laws; only productivity improvements can do that. And workers have different preferences about their share of the gains from future productivity growth. One national company found that its Christchurch staff would generally prefer more holidays but its Auckland staff would prefer more money. Firms and workers should be able to negotiate freely on such matters; the government shouldn't be making this choice for them.

"The Bill also reflects the short-termism of politics, in that it further undermines the credibility of the government's commitment to getting New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD income ladder. Within half a generation, New Zealand will be supporting an aging population with a declining workforce. In Europe , governments are reacting to the same problem by trying to cut holidays and raise retiring ages. A majority (61 percent) of French people are reported as thinking that the 35-hour week was a mistake.

"With measures like this, the government knows its credibility on growth is in tatters", Mr Kerr said. "Grow the economy: have more holidays" does not compute. It is now talking about setting up an advisory group on productivity to paper over the cracks. Instead, it should draw back from ramming the Holidays Bill through before Christmas, and instead promote an open public debate and proper select committee consideration of what is now its most important provision," Mr Kerr said.

ENDS

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