Eight ways National is making life harder for workers

National is choosing to make life harder for workers by taking away the rights our communities have fought hard for. Here's how they’re taking workers backwards.

1. Leaving behind those on the minimum wage

National decided to effectively cut the minimum wage by raising it by only two percent, which is not enough to keep up with inflation or to help low-wage families across the country. Official advice recommended a four percent increase, yet the Government cruelly decided to go against this advice. With the rising cost of living (including increased costs for prescriptions and public transport), this equates to a significant wage cut for many families. Labour has long stood by increasing the minimum wage annually at a rate that is sustainable and accounts for the rising costs and inflation families are facing.

2. Looking to reduce sick leave for part-time workers

The Government is continuing with its consultation to reduce sick leave for part-time workersThis would disproportionately affect disabled people and women – including mothers – as they are more likely to be working part-time. When people have enough sick leave, they can stay home when they’re unwell. This protects other workers, businesses, and our health system. Last year when Christopher Luxon was asked if he would reduce sick leave, he said “absolutely not”. The Government now choosing to reduce sick leave is both an attack on workers’ rights and yet another campaign promise National has broken.

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3. Rushing to reinstate 90-day trials

National has hurried to bring back 90-day trials for all workers, which means employers can dismiss workers without cause within their first 90 days of employment. Research has shown that these trials don’t help people into work, but they can leave workers vulnerable to losing their jobs without a fair reason or process.

4. Delaying transparency work

National has stopped all work on – and reportedly scrapped – a policy that would have helped to address gender and ethnic pay gaps and is instead implementing a watered-down voluntary system. A voluntary reporting mechanism has been in place for some time now and does not work, which is why Labour made transparency a requirement for large businesses. Our pay gap in NZ is currently 8.6 percent and has stubbornly refused to move. Other countries have had success in tackling pay gaps through comprehensive pay transparency reporting regimes, but the Government is again choosing to take us backwards.

5. Scrapping Fair Pay Agreements

Fair Pay Agreements set out minimum terms and conditions for workers across an industry or occupation, as agreed by employers and unions. They make it easier for workers to receive fair wages and conditions and avoid the 'race to the bottom' that occurs within competitive industries. National has scrapped them, despite progress towards improving pay and conditions for our bus drivers, hospitality staff, early childhood teachers, port workers, cleaners, and security guards. These agreements are common in Australia and help to increase wages for Australian workers.

6. Cutting the Pay Equity Taskforce

National has cut the Pay Equity Taskforce that was working towards equal pay for women, despite there being dozens of claims still outstanding. Despite acknowledging the Taskforce’s success, Nicola Willis has chosen to get rid of the six roles that supported claims for women to be paid equally to those with similar jobs. Labour put the Taskforce in place to provide guidance and support on the pay equity process and advise on claims – disestablishing it puts hard-won progress at risk and takes us backwards. 

7. Stopping the minimum wage top-up for disabled workers

National is taking the minimum wage top-up away from hundreds of disabled workers, meaning some could be paid as low as $2 per hour. In Government, Labour was working to end the minimum wage exemption for people with disabilities. We funded a minimum wage top-up to ensure all workers could keep their jobs, work with dignity, and be paid fairly for their time and effort. This was funded by the Government – not employers – but the Government has sadly decided that disabled workers are not worth investing in.

8. Cutting thousands of jobs, while unemployment rises

Unemployment is rising and thousands of people are set to lose their jobs, with these cuts already having a noticeable impact on frontline services. These cuts include people working to stop child exploitation, improve our biosecurity, keep our healthcare system running smoothly, and restore the habitats of our native and endangered species. Among those who have lost their jobs are families with kids to feed and experts with nowhere to turn but abroad. Cutting thousands of jobs while spending billions of dollars on a tax break for landlords, charter schools, and more prison beds is short-sighted and will leave our communities worse off.

Labour will keep holding the Government to account for these reckless cuts that go too far, too fast.

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