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Government backs down on unworkable smoko bill

Labour Spokesperson


Government backs down on unworkable smoko bill

A bill, which the government claimed would cause havoc at airports as air traffic controllers took tea break entitlements, has finally - and rightly - been dumped, Labour’s spokesperson on labour issues, Darien Fenton says.

The Employment Relations (Rest Breaks and Meal Breaks) Amendment Bill has been discharged by the new Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges, despite having gone through a First Reading and Select Committee process and sitting on the order paper since 24th September 2010.

“Labour said at the time the bill, which amended workers’ entitlements to rest and meal breaks, was an overreaction and now it seems that the government agrees with us.

“The two examples of air traffic controllers and teachers used by John Key and his Government to justify weakening entitlements to the most basic of workplace entitlements had been well resolved by the time the legislation had its first reading.

“The bill removed the explicit requirement for a ten minute break and half hour meal break, something I am sure the majority of hard working New Zealanders would be totally opposed to. It would also have allowed employers to restrict breaks so that workers could be required to work during unpaid work time and would have exposed vulnerable workers to having no breaks at all.

“There is always the possibility that the provisions of the bill could re-emerge in employment legislation in the future. I would hope, however, that the government has realised any changes to current rest and meal break entitlements are unnecessary and hugely unjust.

“The introduction of this bill echoes the panicked changes made by the government to laws governing the employment rights of film and video workers.

“Having a break at work for smoko and lunch is something all hard working Kiwis deserve. Not only is it important for health and safety reasons, but also for improved productivity. Removing those breaks, as this bill would have done, would be a disaster.”

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