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Rest, meal breaks another erosion of labour laws

Workers’ rights to rest and meal breaks yet another erosion of labour laws

A Bill changing rest and meal break laws is set to deny vulnerable workers basic rights to minimum breaks during a working day and is yet another backwards step, says Labour Spokesperson Trevor Mallard.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson claims the legislation will create greater flexibility. It will certainly do that for employers – but this will come at the expense of rights that most workers consider fundamental and is get another erosion of labour laws being presided over by this minister.

“The irony of the timing won’t be lost on workers, many of whom would have enjoyed Labour Day and had a chance to reflect on the importance of decent labour laws,”Trevor Mallard says.

“The proposed change will overturn a law only recently introduced and designed to ensure the most vulnerable workers are given tea and lunch breaks.

“Most workers already got - and will continue to get - these rest breaks as most are covered by collective agreements or are working for responsible employers who realise these are appropriate and fair for employees.

“But in a minority of cases, some employees were being denied proper breaks, which is why the law was improved – a change the minister is now reversing.

“The changes being introduced will see some workers denied any breaks and in other cases enable employers to restrict the length of them and what workers can do during those breaks,” Trevor Mallard says.

“Allowing workers to start late or finish early in lieu of taking a lunch break is just not fair compensation. Workers are entitled to have a lunch break when they do a full day’s work.

“To argue differently is to fundamentally fail to understand basic human rights. Interestingly, National voted for the improvements when they were introduced last year. Now it is in Government, it is doing an about-face which seems less than honest.”


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