Is Lees-Galloway really at risk as a minister?

The Karel Sroubek issue continues to cause discomfort for Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway, and this is creating a problem for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

National have been calling for Lees-Galloway’s resignation, and repeated that yesterday after Lees-Galloway admitted to spending just an hour considering the deportation of Sroubek, and to not reading the whole file he was given.

Ardern has now changed her stance from expressing confidence in Lees-Galloway to not expressing confidence, which may be an ominous sign.

I’m reluctant to jump on the sack-the-Minister bandwagon. And Lees-Galloway had seemed to be doing an ok job as a Minister.

But being a Minister of Government is a very responsible job. Minister’s make decisions that have major impacts on the lives of individuals (and of many people).

It appears that Lees-Galloway has not been up to scratch on this. I don’t know whether that justifies a resignation or a sacking, but either is looking an increasingly likely outcome. That would be sad as a result of a bit of a slack stuff-up, but that’s the nature of politics, and if Lees-Galloway isn’t up to the job he shouldn’t be given that responsibility.

Sroubek affair continues to dog Lees-Galloway

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway has made a mess of deferring the deportation of Karel Sroubek, and has made more of a mess of the handling of it when it was pushed by National.

He now admits he didn’t read the whole report given to him before making a very important decision about someone’s future, and he made the decision within about an hour. This seems to contradict assurances he gave to Jacinda Ardern that he had given the matter “careful consideration”, which could put her in a difficult position.

In Parliament today:

Question No. 2—Immigration

2. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Did he meet with officials on 19 September 2018 to discuss the deportation liability of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik; if so, at what time?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, at 4.30 p.m.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he first considered Karel Sroubek’s case on 19 September 2018, as indicated in his answer to written question 27289?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he wrote to Karel Sroubek’s lawyer confirming his decision to grant residency that same day?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I understand that the letter was post-dated to that day, but I am advised that it was sent on the 21st.

SPEAKER: Backdated, I think the member means.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he therefore confirm it took him less than an hour to make his decision to grant residency?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the decision maker, it’s important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Immigration New Zealand prepared a comprehensive file, detailed information, which I used to make that decision, following exactly the same process that that member used when I made that decision. I made that decision on that day.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A helpful elucidation of the process which did not address the question, which was “Can he confirm he took less than an hour to make that decision?”

SPEAKER: Well, I’ll ask the Minister to have another go at it. I mean, days don’t finish at half past five., but carry on.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I made the decision on that day using the information that I had available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why was this decision, one which the Prime Minister has said he gave “careful consideration to” and was “a very difficult decision”, decided just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because I used the comprehensive file that was prepared by Immigration New Zealand and presented to me. As a decision maker, it is important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Publicly available information may be wrong or unfairly prejudicial. That’s why it is important to have a robust process to prepare the information for my consideration.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it common practice for him to consider cases to, in his words, “weigh matters of public safety and the criminal behaviour of the individual involved” just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I used the same process that the member used when he was Minister.

RNZ: Immigration Minister made Sroubek decision in just one hour

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has admitted he took only an hour to decide to let Karel Sroubek stay in New Zealand and did not read the entire case file.

In response to questions in Parliament, Mr Lees-Galloway confirmed he made his decision on the same day he received the file.

He later told reporters he took “an hour or so” to make up his mind and said that was “much, much longer” than he’d taken on other cases.

“I took the time that I felt was necessary. I certainly asked questions. I certainly looked closely at different aspects of the file,” he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he went through the summary with his officials, but admitted he did not read the file in its entirety before making his decision.

“I read the aspects of the file that I felt were necessary to make the decision that I made.”

The minister defended his decision-making, saying he followed the exact same process as the previous government.

“This is the usual process for these decisions.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said he’d since read the full file “several times” and stood by the decision he made on the basis of the information provided.

Asked whether in hindsight he would have taken more care and time, he insisted he was “thorough” and had given the case “due consideration”.

“That’s the job.”

It appears that Lee’s-Galloway did not do a thorough enough jonb in making his decision, and has done an awful job of dealing with the flak.

Also today Sroubek put out a media statement:

Following the Minister of Immigration recently cancelling my liability for deportation there have been numerous reports and statements about me made to and reported in the media.

Much of what has been said about me and my circumstances does not present the true picture.

In 2010 I faced charges. I was properly acquitted at trial, as were all of the other people charged. Comments made about that case in the media are not balanced, and in particular do not reflect that the key prosecution witness’ evidence was discredited.

The National Deputy leader by her questions in Parliament has implied I may have had something to with an alleged burglary of a property I have an interest in. The allegation I was involved in that burglary is completely without foundation. I was not involved in the burglary.

Until New Zealand Immigration reports backs to the Minister and I have had the opportunity to respond to him on any issue he may wish to raise I will be making no further comment or statement.

And National are not backing off.

Ardern wants Sroubek residency review fast tracked

KiwiFirewalker: Oh so now NZ wants to talk about about immigration!

There was a lot of talk about immigration in last year’s election campaign, but until the Sroubek issue came up the Government has kept fairly quiet – probably because their election promises (Labour’s and NZ First’s) seemed to have been put aside.

Its funny isn’t it that the immigration debate in New Zealand can limp along with barely any discussion on exactly how problematic the situation is for years until a Czech drug smuggler gets permanent residence then people loose their minds.

There has been some good coverage over time, such as Steve Kilgallon and Dileepa Fonseka’s excellent series of articles on Stuff about exactly how widespread migrant exploitation in NZ is and how badly our immigration system is being rorted, but I have not herd the words “migrant exploitation” or “immigration rort” in the last six months as much as I have herd the words “Czech drug-smuggler” in the last week.

Ian Lees-Galloway, as Minister of Immigration, made his decision about Karel Sroubek in one of the three following contexts:

1. Lees-Galloway (or one of his minions*) did not actually read past the cover sheet and just made their decision on the easy (but incorrect) emotion angle of the case,

2. Lees-Galloway read the file but the file the file did not have all the info so the decision was made with incomplete information, or

3. Sroubek was given residency as part of some deal with the Police, or some other agency, as part of his connection to the Hell’s Angels and drugs smuggling in NZ.

Any of the above could be true but since we are listing facts about this case then lets list a few more.

4. Immigration NZ is run like a fast food franchise with lowly paid employees, quantity over quality decision making, outsourced  and offshore functions** and a risk adverse senior management which knows the problems exist but will not face them,

5. Appeals to the Minister of Immigration only make it to their desk when ALL other avenues are closed and things are looking BAD (as in nobody wanted to approve your application), and

6. Its a total crap shoot when your case is gone to the minister for appeal, anything could happen.

In my five years at Immigration NZ I watched all sorts of cases get declined at every single other level and then go to the minister for final judgement and in some cases people that should definitely not be allowed into the country got to stay while those who had cases with the most compassionate grounds ever get rejected outright with no reason or explanation, because at that level the Ministers power is effectively absolute and there is no appeal if you loose (or in the case of those highly questionable individuals who got in: won).

That said the Minister can also make the right decision and one of the most heart wrenching cases of my career, that I was unable to approve despite it being a obvious “yes”, finally got approved later by the Minister; to my utter happiness, and relief.

A bouquet for a National Minister of Immigration:

And for the record the Minister that I, and most of my fellow Immigration officers, felt made the best decisions was Michael Woodhouse.

And a brickbat for another:

For whatever reason when it usually needed to be declined he did and when it needed an approved he approved while, in my time at least, the worst  Minister was Jonathan Coleman who we could only believe was deliberately doing the opposite of what should be done, every single time, as there seemed to be no other rational explanation for the atrocious range of appalling decisions he made…

It’s not the party that matters, it’s the personality of the Minister.

So the real questions in these circumstances is not “why did the minister approve Sroubek” but how can Peter Thiel get the red carpet treatment but Karel Sroubek cannot?

Two of the most controversial residents.

Yet the likely outcome is Sroubek will go while Theil and Yang get to stay because apparently Kiwis can only get outraged about immigration issues when its drugs and not abuses by the wealthy,  obvious cases of espionage, migrant exploitation or marriage-for-residency scams which makes this less a genuine issue and more the most recent round of “wont someone think of the children!”.

So lets not turn the issue into another round of political point scoring or as an obvious distraction from a genuine high crime, like National selling slots in their party to the highest foreign bidder, but instead say “yes” to kicking Sroubek out but lets also get rid of that billionaire guy who got citizenship only because he’s filthy rich and that lying intelligence operative for a hostile power who is also, mysteriously, a sitting MP.

If Sroubek goes so should Thiel, Yang and all those other “economic citizens” who will have the dollars to buy a seat in Parliament because its just not right.

Good discussion points, but apart from Sroubek I doubt there will be any change for Thiel and Yang.

 

Ardern has confidence in Minister of Immigration

It will be annoying for Jacinda Ardern and Labour to have the immigration and deportation thing hanging over their conference weekend, but it is an unresolved issue that deserves more answers.

She should be disappointed.

Duncan Garner (Stuff):  Dear Iain, your shocker continues to seep

Bet this wasn’t how your Labour mates saw this weekend’s party conference playing out.

Can’t imagine, Iain, you’ll be dragged up on the stage as ministerial eye-candy either.

Standing ovation anyone? Iain Lees-Galloway for services to a foreign crook and an unsafer New Zealand.

They’re hard places to hide those party conferences too.  Unlike parliament, the pillars to hide behind are few and far between, so just keep expanding the designer beard, it’ll soon envelop you.

John Roughan (NZH): Czech ‘refugee’ shows Government needs better judgment

Putting aside all we know about Karel Sroubek now, it is easy to say the crimes Lees-Galloway knew about ought to have outweighed the risk to the life of a drug importer with gang associations. But did they really? Often it is not until you sit in a decision making chair that the right course of action becomes clear.

To my mind the significance of the crimes for this decision was the question they raised about Sroubek’s honesty and therefore the credibility of his claim to be in mortal danger in the Czech Republic. Lees-Galloway ought to have asked his officials to check that claim more closely. Had he done so, they would easily have discovered the court records showing he’d been back to his homeland on business at least once, albeit under the false name he was using when he entered New Zealand.

It is easy to blame Immigration officials for not doing these checks of their own accord but again, it’s the person in the hot seat who can see these needs clearest. It worries me that Lees-Galloway did not ask enough questions of this supposed refugee and surprises me that Jacinda Ardern was so quick to endorse his decision on Monday. A Prime Minister occupies the ultimate hot seat and is usually hyper-alert to political danger.

This issue will be ongoing pending the up to 3 week inquiry ordered by Lees-Galloway.

Laura Walters:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

The heat still on Minister of Immigration

Pressure is still being applied to Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway over his decision to allow Czech Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand after he leaves prison (drug importation offences). Galloway has ordered an urgent review, but that may take weeks. The heat is still being applied.

Newsroom:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

Understandably the Opposition and the wider public have been critical of Lees-Galloway’s decision – Sroubek is a man who came to New Zealand under a fake name, using fake documents, who was convicted for smuggling MDMA into the country, then granted residency as he feared for his life should he be deported to the Czech Republic.

The criticism of Lees-Galloway’s decision to cancel Sroubek’s deportation liability, coupled with the Minister saying as good as nothing about the particulars of the case, has left an information vacuum.

National will keep trying to fill the vacuum.

More ‘new information’ that prompted reconsideration of Sroubek residency

A report that there was more new information that prompted a reconsideration of the Sroubrek residency decision than that he had returned voluntarily to the Czech republic.

Newstalk ZB: Details surrounding Karel Sroubek’s residency revealed

Yesterday, Newstalk ZB revealed Sroubek had allegedly returned to the Czech Republic since arriving to New Zealand, which went against the suggestion the residency was for his protection.

Newstalk ZB can exclusively reveal the change in circumstance that could see controversial criminal Karel Sroubek lose his residency.

Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper understands the new information, which has sparked the change of heart, centres on Sroubek’s now ex-wife.

Initially, she supported Sroubek’s case for residency and said she was happy for him to stay in the country once he was released from jail, where he is currently serving a sentence for importing drugs.

This is believed to be the information Lees-Galloway used to make his decision.

However, the wife is now in the process of taking out a restraining order against Sroubek.

The decision came as news to Lees-Galloway, and he is now reviewing his decision.

See Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision

Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway announced that he would reconsider the decision to grant residency to illegal immigrant and convicted drug importer Karel Sroubek after National brought up ‘new information’ in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had suggested that media ‘read between the lines’ on the decision and it was assumed that residency was granted because Sroubek feared for his safety if he returned. However it has been revealed that he has returned to the Czech Republic voluntarily since coming to New Zealand. This suggests that the safety concerns may have been overstated, and he may not have informed officials of his travel.

Both Lees-Galloway and  have pointed their fingers at immigration officials for not providing complete information.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her Government grant residency to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to correctly categorise the decision that was made, my understanding is that he already had residency, albeit in an incorrect name.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is her response to the Dominion Post this morning, which said, “So yes, prime minister, we have read between the lines. Our reading of it suggests that Sroubek is a person of poor character, a criminal who cannot be trusted, who arrived here under false pretences. He should be deported. You have got this wrong.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as that member should know given that when he was in office there were roughly 100 deportations cancelled. From time to time to time Ministers do have information put in front of them that makes for very difficult decisions. I have seen information that would suggest, from the information reports, that they have been in very similar circumstances.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it clear that her Government has prioritised a dangerous criminal’s welfare over public safety, contrary to her statement that any further offending actions by Karel Sroubek “sits with this individual … anything further is off the minister’s conscience and it’s on theirs.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is being made absolutely clear by the Minister. He has put into writing that anything further would mean that he would automatically be deported. On the face of it, of course, it looks like an obvious decision, which demonstrates that from time to time, Ministers in this position do receive additional information. What we have to make sure is that that information that the Minister makes the decision on is consistent and clear, and that’s for officials to ensure that they have provided that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it the case that since the early 2000s, Karel Sroubek has been back to the Czech Republic, and doesn’t that make any decision by Iain Lees-Galloway ridiculous?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister made the decision based on the information he had at the time, and he is no different to any other Minister of any political persuasion. They have to deal with the information provided to them by officials. If there is information that contradicts the basis on which the Minister made the decision, then that would be for him to go back to the officials and seek further advice. I would have an expectation that he would do that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did she and the Minister not know he had been to the Czech Republic since the early 2000s, and is she going to fess up they just got this clearly, badly wrong?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Every Minister does rely on the advice that they are provided by officials, and the Minister is no different in that regard to the last Minister, who overturned 108 deportations. We are all, as Ministers, reliant on the information we are provided. Again, if there is anything that contradicts the information that’s been provided, it is for the Minister to go back to officials, and it would be my expectation he would do that.

Winston Peters jumped in to try to support Ardern, and tried to divert blame to the National Government. His initial efforts were ruled out of order, and responses by National MPs were disproportionately punished by the Speaker.

Rt Hon David Carter: Because it’s not your job—

SPEAKER: That’s six. Any more?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, OK. It’s worth it.

SPEAKER: That’s 10 supplementary questions that will be taken from the National Party today.

But Peters was allowed to rephrase.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the basis of information being given to this House in good faith, has the Prime Minister been appraised of the number of times this man came back into the country, and who was the Government at the time?

Ardern briefly took the opportunity to take a swipe at National but switched back to the more serious matter before her.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, members will draw their inference from the fact that we have only been in Government for 12 months. Again, though, I reiterate that a Minister would make a decision based on the information in front of him, and we would all have a fair expectation that if there is information to contradict that, we would expect the Minister to go back to his officials.

The next question also addressed the issue.

2. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: What is New Zealand’s process for extraditing Czech nationals to the Czech Republic, and what stage is the application for extradition of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, at?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): The Czech Republic is able to make an application for extradition of one of their citizens, and any application is made under the Extradition Act 1996. There is a process that usually starts with an application being made through diplomatic channels. It goes to the Minister of Justice in New Zealand. It is an application ultimately determined by the District Court on the grounds of eligibility, and then the final decision on whether or not an extradition is made is made by the Minister of Justice of the day. On the second part of the question, despite the Czech Republic indicating to the New Zealand Government in 2015 that it had an interest in Mr Sroubek, no formal application for extradition has been made.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why is the Parole Board aware of an extradition request?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I’m not responsible for the determinations of the Parole Board.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Did the Minister speak with the immigration Minister ahead of the Minister approving residency for Karel Sroubek?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Was the Minister aware of any controversy around Karel Sroubek before the Minister of Immigration granted residency?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No, and there’d be no reason for me to have been so.

Hon Mark Mitchell: If officials advise there is sufficient evidence to support an extradition request, will he extradite Karel Sroubek back to the Czech Republic?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member will be well aware that it would be entirely inappropriate and not in the public interest for me to comment on any case that may be the subject of an extradition application.

It became a triple whammy.

4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he believe he has considered all relevant factors in deciding to grant residency to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Shortly before question time today, I became aware that information may exist that appears, on the face of it, to directly contradict information that I used and relied upon to make that decision. I am now taking advice on my options and need to consider the veracity of the new information that has been made available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did all of those factors include submissions from Czech Republic officials about any statements Mr Sroubek had made relevant to them, and, if not, will he be also asking the Czech officials to provide submissions?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Given the potential new information that I have just become aware of, I do not intend to make any further comment on the information that I was provided. I need to take advice, and I need to carefully consider the way forward from here.

So a commitment by Lees-Galloway to reconsider the residency decision due to new information becoming available.

This issue was already awkward for the Government. It has now become embarrassing. One would hope that a minister would do as much as possible to ensure he had all relevant information before making an obviously contentious decision.

National have called for the Minister to resign over this, but I think that’s a silly overreach. This looks more like a stuff up than anything like a sackable offence. Perhaps sloppy, but probably not a misuse of ministerial powers.

So Lees-Galloway should learn a lesson from this and be a more careful minister in the future.

This is a bit of a blow to Government credibility, but probably isn’t a major. However it reinforces National’s campaign that keeps claiming the Government is soft on criminals.

‘Fair Pay’ team announced

The Government has set up over a hundred panels, working groups, reviews, committees and whatever esle they have called them. They refer to the latest as ‘a ‘Fair Pay Agreeement’ team.


Government’s Fair Pay Agreement work to begin

The Government’s work on establishing Fair Pay Agreements, helping design a collective bargaining system to lift wages and productivity in New Zealand, will be led by former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Jim Bolger, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Government has a vision for a highly skilled and innovative economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages, while supporting economic growth and productivity,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.

“The best way to create a high-wage economy is through productivity growth, and we must ensure that workers and businesses benefit from economic growth. While wages have generally grown in the top-two and bottom-two deciles, wages for middle New Zealand have not kept up and as a result feel squeezed by rising costs, particularly in housing.

“We can and must do better for middle New Zealanders. Fair Pay Agreements will establish a framework for employers and employees to work together constructively to lift wages and productivity.

“Workers and employers know their sector best. By working together through effective engagement and bargaining cooperatively, workers and employers can set standards that are relevant to their sector and support productivity and growth.

“The aim of FPAs is to prevent a race to the bottom, where some employers are undercut by others who reduce costs through low wages and poor conditions of employment.

“Through the team led by Jim Bolger, the Government intends to introduce legislation to allow employers and workers to create Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum employment terms and conditions for all workers in the industry or occupation covered by the agreement.

“Fair Pay Agreements will help lift wages and conditions and ensure good employers are not disadvantaged by paying reasonable, industry-standard wages.

“It is time to move toward new models of bargaining. It is time New Zealand adopts a sector-level approach that is common across the developed world.

“Mr Bolger will lead the team of ten to develop recommendations on the design of a Fair Pay Agreement system, which is due to report back by the end of the year, and we will work closely with businesses, organisations and workers to develop a new and enduring framework that is good for employers and workers,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The team includes worker and business representatives, those with practical on-the-ground experience and experts in law, economics and bargaining systems.

Members of the Fair Pay Agreement team:

Rt Hon Jim Bolger – 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand, former Minister of Labour

Dr Stephen Blumenfeld – Director, Centre for Labour, Employment and Work at Victoria University

Steph Dyhrberg – Partner, Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law

Anthony Hargood – Chief Executive, Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union

Kirk Hope – Chief Executive, BusinessNZ

Vicki Lee – Chief Executive, Hospitality NZ

Caroline Mareko – Senior Manager, Communities and Participation, He Whānau Manaaki o Tararua Free Kindergarten Association

John Ryall – Assistant National Secretary, E tū

Dr Isabelle Sin – Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington

Richard Wagstaff – President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

The terms of reference are available at MBIE’s website.

Nation – immigration and banking

On Newshub Nation this morning:

Immigration – Lisa Owen asks Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway about Labour’s plan to reduce immigration by 20-30,000 and what the effect will be on our economy.

Banking – Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr talks about lifting the lid on New Zealand banking practices and which areas concern him most.

Overdue attempt to fix hopeless Holidays Act

The Holidays Act 2003 introduced new ways of ensuring employees get three weeks holiday per year (increased to four weeks in 2007), and also new ways of calculating holiday and sick pay and other leave.

The intent was good, and it works well for people who keep working regular hours, but in practice it has been terrible where employees work variable hours and have changing work patterns. Abiding by the law is difficult.

The last Government tried to sort it out but gave up, putting it in the too hard basket, leaving it a basket case.

Many employers then found out that they had been calculating holiday pay wrong (forced into attempting workable approximations) and some have had to front up with a lot of money to set things sort of right.

Since then employer groups and unions seem to have accepted that their stand off was not working and a solution needed to be found.

The Government has just announced they will review the Holidays act and try and sort it out. This time they have called it a taskforce, as they have already overused the terms working group, committee, inquiry and review.

But this one is overdue and needs to come up with a practical solution.


Tripartite taskforce to review Holidays Act

A taskforce that brings business, workers and Government together has been established to recommend changes to the Holidays Act 2003, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Holidays Act was enshrined in law to provide for minimum entitlements to annual holidays, public holidays, sick leave and bereavement leave, and protect worklife balance for workers,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

“However, there’s been enormous change in our labour market over the past fifteen years and it’s clear we need to look at the Holidays Act with a fresh pair of eyes and ensure it is fit for modern workplaces and new working arrangements.

“We need law that provides certainty to both employers and employees so that employees receive their correct entitlements. The legislation needs to be straightforward and simple to implement, and deliver fair rest and entitlements for workers.

“With an increasing variety of work patterns and pay arrangements, the legislative requirements of the Act are proving difficult and costly for employers to apply and employees are not receiving their full entitlements.

“The time is now right to directly address the underlying issues with the Act. I’ve been approached by Business NZ and the Council of Trade Unions to help tackle this vexed and complex set of issues and I’m excited about the work we have ahead of us.

“The working group will be chaired by Gordon Anderson, a law professor at Victoria University with extensive experience in employment law, both as an academic and as a barrister. He will chair a taskforce that brings together employer, worker and government representatives.

“I expect this group to consult widely to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues with the current legislation, and work closely with technical experts such as payroll and other business service providers to assist with the design and testing of policy options to ensure they will work well in practice. The group will report back with recommendations in mid-2019.

“The Labour Inspectorate at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has been working with a wide range of stakeholders to improve compliance with the Holidays Act through the co-creation of new guidance and tools. I am grateful to all those people who contributed to this work.

“Employers are obligated to remediate employees for current and historic underpayments and must be compliant with the current Act until new legislation comes into effect.

“MBIE and the Labour Inspectorate will continue to provide support and engagement on these issues to assist employers in the meantime,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.

For more information on the Holidays Act 2003 review, visit here.


Being compliant with the current act can be very difficult, because the current law just doesn’t allow anywhere near properly for variables.