Small minority to make crucual decisions on ‘fair pay’ agreements

Fair Pay Agreements “would set minimum standards to lift wages and conditions across an industry or occupation”, but could be initiated by a small minority of workers – just 10%, or less (1,000 workers). Is that fair? A minority in, say Auckland, could effectively end up imposing ‘fair pay’ across an industry across the country.

This is what the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group has recommended. The Government will now consider what they do – this may not be straight forward, with Labour and Greens requiring the support of another minority, NZ First.

Heather du Plessis Allan: Time to fast-forward to the past

Business is collectively losing its mind over the working group’s recommendations. It’s calling it a return to the national awards of the 1970s.

Business hates that the negotiations can be triggered by as little 10 per cent of the industry’s workforce. Business hates that the contract agreements would be compulsory for all employers in that industry. Business hates paying employees more than it has to.

Business has a few fair points. We can’t expect the cafe owner in Balclutha to pay staff exactly the same wage as the Auckland cafe owner making a killing thanks to the money and foot traffic a city delivers. There should be concessions to regional variance.

These recommendations probably won’t all be accepted by the Government. Labour’s coalition partner New Zealand First might challenge many of them, if not all. Winston Peters’ party has already temporarily pulled its support on Labour’s employment law once before.

So it is far from a done deal at this stage.

But, the motivation behind these recommendations is on the money. Kiwis are underpaid.

That’s debatable. In the private sector we are generally paid what companies can afford to pay and stay in business.

Audrey Young:  Coalition Government lining up smorgasbord of targets for National

The same goes for the fair pay agreements outlined in the Jim Bolger report delivered to the Government this week.

But given New Zealand First’s track record in diluting union-backed legislation, it is hard to imagine the party agreeing to a trigger as low as 10 per cent for workers to force employers to the table for compulsory sector-wide bargaining.

The trouble is that the higher the trigger goes, the less happy the unions will be. A true compromise may result in deeply unhappy unions and employers.

Dominion Post editorial: Why back to the future on pay might not work

Many of this country’s lowest paid and most vulnerable workers have every right to look back in anger at the steady, inexorable fall in the value of their wages, the undermining of working conditions and the perceived out-of-proportion rewards for their employers and many others in the business community.

Bolger’s group was assembled to address such inequities, and its report released this week suggests we go back to the future.

It recommends the creation of fair-pay agreements, a new version of the old collective bargaining that critics have labelled as “compulsory unionism by stealth”.

There is some sympathy for that argument because the proposal, if adopted, would mean that an entire industry would have to negotiate new minimum pay and working conditions if just 10 per cent or 1000 workers in that industry, whichever is fewer, asked for it.

That creates the potential for major upheaval in businesses that have long moved on from the days of compulsory unionism and the environment that went with it.

The reforms are targeted at the country’s low-paid and most exploited workers.

But there is still the potential for major uncertainty, confusion and disruption for everyone within the complicated ecosystem that is our national economy.

For many, the amount they are paid remains the main measure of their perceived value, from the employer and within society. Work conditions are important, but pay is so often the principal point of anger and agitation.

If employers followed a number of local bodies and now Westpac bank in taking on a living wage for their employees, it would go a long way towards quelling that anger, and possibly even lift productivity.

But local bodies can just put up rates to pay for bigger wage bills. Ratepayers have to pay. If companies put up prices customers can choose not to pay.

This too, of course, is a blunt tool, and would not come without cost. But in conjunction with sensible legislation to protect workers’ rights and conditions, as happened when zero-hour contracts were deemed illegal, it could address many concerns without creating widespread disruption and a threat to the economy.

This working group is right to address inequities on behalf of the country’s workers, but it should be careful not to throw out the businesses with the bathwater.

A minority in Government, NZ First, look to be the deciding factor in whether a minority of workers could enable (or force) ‘fair pay’ on a whole industry, which could put a larger number of workers and their jobs at risk.

Another point  – Labour may think it was a master stroke recruiting ex-National MP Jim Bolger to head the Working Group, but why an ageing retired politician? One who is a long way from knowing what ordinary workers feel and experience. Surely there are younger people around who may have a better appreciation of work in the modern world.

Government blurb on the Working Group report:

Britain and EU agree on post-Brexit relationship

Reuters:  EU, Britain agree draft deal on future relations

Britain and the European Union have agreed a draft text setting out a close post-Brexit relationship, though wrangling with Spain over control of Gibraltar must still be settled before EU leaders meet on Sunday in order to rubber-stamp the pact.

“The British people want Brexit to be settled. They want a good deal that sets us on a course for a brighter future,” British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament.

“The deal that will enable us to do this is now within our grasp. In these crucial 72 hours ahead, I will do everything possible to deliver it for the British people.”

Her spokesman said she believed she could win a critical vote in parliament on the deal, expected next month, but many of those she needs to persuade appeared unconvinced.

Guardian: May defends under-fire Brexit plan: ‘a deal is within our grasp’

Painting the agreement as a bespoke and carefully negotiated plan, May told MPs it disproved the idea that the only relationships on offer would be Norway or Canada. “The text we have now agreed would create a new free trade area with the EU, with no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions. This will be the first such agreement from the EU with any advanced economy in the world – and will be good for jobs,” she said.

“Crucially the text we have agreed has an explicit reference to the development of an independent trade policy by the UK beyond this partnership with the EU, so we would have the abilities to sign new trade deals and capitalise on new trade deals with the fastest-growing economies around the world. We will be able to get on with this negotiating deals during the transition period.”

May said there was “an explicit commitment to consider facilitative arrangement and technologies to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland”, and thanked Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson for their input on that, which was jeered by some Tory MPs. Paterson and Duncan Smith saw the prime minister in Downing Street last week.

May also reiterated that she had held talks about Gibraltar with Spain, saying: “I was absolutely clear that Gibraltar’s British sovereignty will be protected.”

She ended: “The British people want Brexit to be settled. They want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future. And they want us to come together as a country and to move on and focus on the big issues at home. The deal that will enable us to do this, is now within our grasp. In these crucial 72 hours, I will do everything in my power to deliver this to the British people.”

Guardian: Brexit political declaration fails to offer frictionless trade

A joint document on Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU fails to offer any hope of frictionless trade, said to be vital to the British economy, but provides Theresa May with arguments to bolster her hopes of selling the deal to Brexiters in parliament.

leaked 26-page political declaration, to be approved by EU leaders at a Brexit summit on Sunday, paints a picture of the future relationship that differs substantially from the proposals made by the prime minister at Chequers in the summer.

According to the declaration the two sides “envisage having a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible”, but the EU and the UK would be separate markets with inevitable barriers to trade, and there is no reference to a common rulebook.

The document does reassert the plan for both sides to “build and improve on the single customs territory” already negotiated in the withdrawal agreement.

 

A billion or half more trees

National MP Simon Bridges has accused the Government of halving it’s tree planting plan. Yesterday a press release from Simon Bridges: So, half as many trees then?

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

Included in the Labour-NZ first coalition agreement:

Coalition Priorities

In this parliamentary term, New Zealand First has a number of priorities to progress which Labour will support alongside its policy programme. These include the following goals:

Regional Economic Development and Primary Industries

  • $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including:
    • Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

That implies a Government Fund for a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

From the Speech from the Throne:

The New Zealand Forestry Service will be re-established and located in regional New Zealand. This government is committed to a new planting programme, planting 100 million trees a year to reach a billion more trees in ten years.

That says “a new planting programme”.

But news reports had made it clear the plan was to double existing tree planting numbers.

Newshub on 25 October: Revealed: Shane Jones Minister for 100 million trees, $1 billion regional fund

Shane Jones will be the Minister responsible for spending $1 billion a year on New Zealand’s regions.

Newshub has also learned that Jones will also be in charge of the new Forestry Service, which will plant 100 million trees a year – with the goal of planting a billion over 10 years.

It is understood that about 50 million trees are already planted in New Zealand each year, meaning the new Government’s planting will double that.

That clearly says doubling to 100 million trees a year, or to 1 billion trees in total.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show on Wednesday the fund will help grow the regions.

“Labour went to the election with a $200 million fund. NZ First came to us and made the case strongly for greater regional investment, particularly around infrastructure. So this fund will include, for instance, a number of regional rail projects,” she said.

“It will include an extensive planting regime for forestry. Our intention is to double the amount of planting that goes on in forestry right now.”

A clear statement of intent to double the number of trees currently being planted.

Ardern responded to Bridges accusations yesterday – 1 billion-tree aim ‘always a joint goal’

But Ardern told reporters yesterday the Government was never going to plant 1 billion trees on its own.

“We’ve always been really clear. We see a role for the Forestry Service to work alongside those in the private sector to ensure we’re supporting the planting of those trees.”

She pointed to Air New Zealand’s announcement on Tuesday to work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund tree-planting over up to 15,000ha in return for carbon benefits.

“Overall our goal is a billion trees being planted. It would be splitting hairs trying to decipher whether or not that [tree] was solely Government [or] solely private sector … this is a collaborative approach.”

Labour and NZ First may be guilty of not being absolutely clear about their intent on tree planting in their agreement and in the Speech from the Throne, but it seems clear from other reports that they intended to double plantings to 100 million a year.

I think to most people both half a billion and a billion trees is a lot, and they won’t care (if they notice) whether it is a doubling of planting or additional.

Bridges needs to be careful he doesn’t inherit the ‘barking at every passing car’ syndrome.

On this he looks a bit pedantic and guilty of petty nitpicking.

Labour-Green confidence and supply deal

The coalition deal between Labour and the GHreens was signed today by incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Green leader James Shaw.

From Stuff Live:

Key policies:
  • Introduce a Zero Carbon Act with a goal of net zero emissions by 2050
  • A referendum on personal cannabis use by 2020
  • Establish and independent Climate Commission. This would have the power to bring agricultural emissions in but would not do this immediately
  • All new legislation to have a climate impact assessment analysis
  • Investigate a Green Transport Card to reduce public transport costs
  • Reprioritise spending towards rail and cycle infrastructure
  • Stop the Auckland East-West link
  • Begin work on light rail to the airport in Auckland
  • “Significantly increase” the Department of Conservation’s funding
  • Remove “excessive” benefit sanctions
  • Make progress on eliminating the gender pay gap within the core public sector
  • A rent-to-own scheme as part of KiwiBuild
  • Re-establish the Mental Health Commission
  • A wind-down on the government-subsidised irrigation

Climate change will be a major, as will be light rail to Auckland Airport, with a few other bits and pieces.

Removing benefit sanctions will be both welcome and contentious, with mention of liable parents not needing to be named, something that caused grief for Metiria Turei and the Green Party.

Portfolios:

  • Climate Change
  • Associate Finance
  • Associate Transport
  • Conservation
  • Women
  • Land Information New Zealand
  • Associate Environment
  • Associate Health
  • Undersecretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence)

That’s a relatively light line-up compared to what NZ First have got, but will allow the greens to ease into a role they are unfamiliar with, being in government.

Stuff:   Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement 

Labour-NZ First coalition deal

The coalition deal between Labour and NZ First was signed today by incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and incoming deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

From Stuff Live:

Key points from the NZ First deal:

  • $1b per annum Regional Development Fund
  • Re-establish the New Zealand Forestry Service
  • Review and reform of the Reserve Bank Act
  • Progressively increase the Minimum Wage to $20 per hour by 2020
  • A comprehensive register of foreign-owned land and housing
  • Free doctors’ visits for all under 14s
  • Free driver training for all secondary students
  • A new generation SuperGold smartcard containing entitlements and concessions
  • A royalty on exports of bottled water
  • Commit to re-enter Pike River
  • A full-scale review into retail power pricing
  • MPs allowed to vote on a potential referendum on euthanasia

Most of that looks fine generally.

Regions have been neglected and allowed to run down for the last three decades so could do with more help. However it will be a challenge to help regions help themselves rather that heap them with subsidies.

While increasing the minimum wage will help many low income earners it’s a risk, as it could backfire and result in a significant number of job losses, meaning some get more but some get less.

NZ First portfolios:

  • Foreign Affairs
  • Infrastructure
  • Regional Economic Development
  • Internal Affairs
  • Seniors
  • Defence
  • Veterans’ Affairs
  • Children
  • Forestry
  • State Owned Enterprises
  • Racing
  • Associate Finance
  • Associate Education
  • Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Regional Economic Development

That’s a good haul of portfolios for a 7% party, with some big wins.

MPs who will take the portfolios will be announced tomorrow.

Stuff:   Labour and New Zealand First Coalition Agreement

Greens ratify agreement with Labour

Last night Green Party delegates ratified a confidence and supply agreement with Labour, enabling a Labour-NZ First coalition and confirming Jacinda Ardern as next Prime Minister.

Shaw had earlier said he was very confident that the agreement would be ratified at the Special General Meeting held by teleconference.

NZH: Green Party ratifies confidence and supply deal with Labour

Party leader James Shaw told media late tonight that the party delegates voted in favour of the agreement – with about three delegates opposing the agreement.

“The Green Party has decided overwhelmingly to support the confidence and supply arrangement that we negotiated with the Labour Party … We’re all in, and there will now be a new Government led by the Labour Party and by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“There were about three votes against and about 140-something for … there were a couple of people that had dissenting opinions and for actually quite good reasons, and we had a pretty robust and extensive debate about it, and then we made a decision.”

Shaw before the decision to ratify:

“This is a historic moment for the Green Party and for our movement because, for the first time, we are going to be, probably, in a position to have ministerial control in the areas that are important to us and the areas that we campaigned on.

“We are very excited about this opportunity.”

He said the agreement should be made public in the coming days, and no decision had been made yet about which Green MPs would take portfolio positions.

The arrangement was a “rare and beautiful thing” because all parties would have to agree to pass any legislation.

“We are forced to find what we have in common, rather than what distinguishes us from each other.”

It’s not rare, that’s what has happened in all the last seven governments under MMP.

Shaw put this statement out after the delegates ratified the agreement.

The Green Party is pleased to support a Labour-led Government that will deliver on the Green Party’s goals, following agreement from the Party’s delegates this evening. The Green Party will support the Labour-led Government on confidence and supply.

“We campaigned with Labour to change the Government and that’s what we’ve delivered tonight,” said Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

“I am confident the agreement reached with Labour will deliver the most green change of any Government in New Zealand’s history.

“This is an historic moment for the Greens. We have spent nearly 30 years working towards being part of Government to deliver change for our people and our environment. It’s the first time the Green Party will hold Ministerial positions to deliver real change that benefits our country.

“We plan to make a positive contribution to a Government New Zealanders can be proud of. Our commitment to the country is to provide stable Government while delivering on our priority areas of climate change, water quality, and ensuring a social safety net that treats everyone with dignity.

“Our conservation estate, our oceans, and our native birds will be better protected. Our cities will move faster and their residents will be happier with cleaner transport options and better quality affordable housing.

“The Green Party shares many goals and values with Labour and NZ First. I look forward to working with Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister and with Winston Peters in a genuine MMP Government.

“We have changed the Government and now we will get on with the job of delivering the change New Zealanders voted for.

“The hard work starts now and the Green Party is rearing to go.”

It is a new era for the Greens. They have agreed to remain outside Cabinet, despite Shaw saying he wanted in Cabinet last week, but this will be the biggest involvement the Greens have had in Government since the party was founded in 1990, and since they first got seats on their own in Parliament in the first MMP election in 1996.

Maori Party-Mana Movement

Here is the agreement signed by the Maori party and the Mana Movement today.


The Executive of the MANA Movement and the National Executive for Maori Party have the power and authority to act on behalf of their respective parties in entering into this agreement.

Any and all contravening clauses/rules contained within existing party rules / constitutions / ture will be suspended for the duration of this agreement and replaced with the terms contained within this Kawenata and will conclude on September 23, 2017.

PRINCIPLES:

  1. The MANA Movement and the Maori Party recognise the importance of showing unity through diversity and the strength that this arrangement provides for the betterment of the people we serve.
  2. Through mutual respect and a commitment to build on the strengths each party possess, we sign this Kawenata to help us achieve the aspirations of both parties and more importantly Maori.

TERMS:

1. MANA confirm the decision made at its 2016 AGM, to focus on Te Tai Tokerau at the 2017 General Election, and to not stand candidates in the other 6 Maori seats (Tamaki Makaurau, Hauraki-Waikato, Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Te Tai Hauauru, Te Tai Tonga).

2. The Maori Party confirm their determination to stand candidates in those 6 Maori seats (Tamaki Makaurau, Hauraki-Waikato, Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Te Tai Hauauru, Te Tai Tonga) at the 2017 General Election, while agreeing to not stand a candidate in Te Tai Tokerau.

3. Both MANA and the Maori Party also agree to allow each party:
a) to develop, present and promote the policies they think most appropriate;
b) to campaign for the party vote;
c) to criticise policies, without attacking candidates.

4. This Kawenata will take effect on signing and remain in force until 5pm Sat 23 Sep 2017.


Meaning of Kawenata from the Maori Dictionary:

1. (loan) (noun) covenant, testament, charter, contract, agreement, treaty – any undertaking that binds the parties in a permanent and morally irrevocable relationship.

The Maori/MANA Kawenata is not permanent as it has a termination date – election day.

Paris climate agreement

The COP21 climate change summit in Paris has reached an agreement on climate change.

BBC reports:

A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of negotiations.

The deal is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.

The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary.

The measures in the final draft included:

• To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century

• To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C

• To review progress every five years

• $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.