Workplace Relations Policy


Labour will:

• Introduce Fair Pay Agreements that set fair, basic employment conditions across an industry as happened with the Kristine Bartlett equal pay settlement.
• Restore fairness rights for employees by replacing National’s 90 day ‘fire at will’ law with a fast, fair, and simple system.
• Ensure all workers in the core public service are paid at least the Living Wage.
• Double the number of Labour Inspectors over our first term.


For too many Kiwis, the current employment relations system is failing. Low wages, little say on rosters or hours of work, and an erosion of conditions have been the norm for many workers in New Zealand workplaces, especially for female and young workers.

At the same time, the nature of work is dramatically changing. New technology, models of production and ultra-mobile capital means that the future of work is unsure and changing rapidly.

As such, Labour believes that the New Zealand employment relations system must be able to ensure that workers are afforded core minimum employment standards by correcting the inherent imbalance of power between workers and employers, as well as provide employers and workers with the framework to take advantage of new technologies and employment opportunities that present themselves.

Labour believes that New Zealand must have a highly skilled and innovative economy that provides well-paid, full-time and long-term jobs. That is why Labour is committed to a high-performing economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages.

To achieve these outcomes, Labour believes that working people must have a voice in their workplaces and industries through collective bargaining and their own independent trade unions. Workers and employers know their sector best. By working together through collective bargaining and effective engagement, workers and employers can set standards that are relevant to their sector, address pay equity and support productivity and growth.

However, Labour accepts that workers, particularly the most vulnerable, also need the protection of a strong platform of minimum standards including, for example, health and safety protections, holiday provision, rest breaks, and minimum redundancy provisions.

Labour realises that most employers also share a commitment to strong employment standards and often face unfair competitive pressure from those employers that don’t follow these practices, and those who don’t follow widely accepted industry terms and conditions. Enforcement of minimum and appropriate fair pay is therefore vital to support businesses that are committed to best practice employment relations, as well as to protect workers within a particular industry or sector.

A Labour-led Government will set an example by ensuring that the Government as an employer adopts the highest standards of workplace relations, pays a Living Wage and achieves high performance through high engagement within the public sector workforce.

Achieving these goals won’t be easy and will require a determined long-term focus. That is why Labour has developed a two-tier approach to employment relations policy; the first tier to be implemented in the first 100 days of a Labour-led Government and the second tier to be introduced in its first 12 months in Government. By adopting this approach, Labour will reintroduce fairness into the New Zealand workplace, whilst also implementing policies that will help achieve sustainable long-term economic growth.

Your rights at work

Within the first 100 days in Government, Labour will:

• Restore fairness rights for employees by replacing National’s 90 day ‘fire at will’ law with a fast, fair, and simple system.

• Introduce 26 weeks paid parental leave to ensure that families are provided with vital support at a crucial stage in their children’s lives.

• Restore reinstatement as the primary remedy when a worker has been unjustifiably dismissed.

• Restore the right to rest and meal breaks at work.

• Restore protections for vulnerable workers in cases where the sale or transfer of business is contemplated, or where outsourcing of jobs is proposed.

• Ensure that New Zealand employment law applies to everyone working in New Zealand, including foreign workers working for foreign companies.

• Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour and base future increases on the real cost of living for people on low incomes. This includes working towards a minimum wage equal to two-thirds of the average wage as economic conditions allow.

90 day trial periods have stripped workers of their rights while failing to support job creation or employment as promised. Under the new trial periods people will be given reasons for dismissal and disputes will be heard within 3 weeks of being lodged. Both parties will be allowed representation but no lawyers will be allowed. The referee will seek agreement between the parties but where this is not possible, they will make a final and binding decision that cannot be appealed. There will be a cap on the value of penalties that can be awarded.

Within the first 12 months in Government, Labour will:

• Begin consultation on improving minimum redundancy protection for workers affected by restructuring, giving regard to the recommendations of the 2008 Ministerial Advisory Group report on redundancy and restructuring.

• Introduce statutory support and legal rights for “dependent contractors” who are effectively workers under the control of an employer, but who do not receive the legal protections that are currently provided to employees under the law.

• Investigate options for ensuring that people who work over 40 hours a week receive adequate remuneration.

• Increase the number of, and resourcing for, Labour Inspectors who are responsible for enforcing employment law and prosecuting breaches, and double the number of inspectors from 55 to 110 over our first term.

• Extend the right for workers to elect a health and safety representative from amongst their own to all workplaces, regardless of size or industry.

• Abolish youth rates.

Improving your bargaining position

Within the first 100 days in Government, Labour will:

• Remove the discrimination that prevents film and television workers bargaining collectively.

• Restore unions’ right to initiate collective bargaining in advance of employers.

• Restore the duty on parties who are in collective bargaining, including those in multi-employer collective bargaining, to reach an agreement once bargaining has been initiated unless there is a genuine reason not to.

• Restore the right for new workers to be employed on the same terms and conditions as provided by an existing collective agreement covering their workplace.

• Remove the ability for employers to deduct pay from workers taking low level protest action during an industrial dispute.

• Protect the human right to belong to a union by restoring the right for people to be visited by union representatives at their workplace to ensure their legal and collective rights are maintained and adhered to.

• Ensure elected union workplace representatives are given reasonable time within the workplace or work unit to carry out their representative role.

• Increase protection against discrimination based on union membership and strengthen the integrity of collective bargaining by tightening the rules on employers automatically passing on terms and conditions to non-union workers.

• Ensure new workers have all necessary information and access to unions at the commencement of their employment.

• Implement the changes to the Equal Pay Act as set out in the report from the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles to give all women in female-dominated workforces access to collective bargaining and court processes to settle their claims.

Within the first 12 months in Government, Labour will:

• In conjunction with all relevant stakeholders, develop and introduce a legislative system of industry and sector collective bargaining that allows unions and employers, with the assistance of the Employment Relations Authority, to create Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum conditions, such as wages, allowances, weekend and night rates, hours of work and leave arrangements for workers across an industry based on the employment standards that apply in that industry.

• Extend the right to organise and bargain collectively to contractors who primarily sell their labour.

• Investigate measures that improve job security for people in precarious forms of employment (for example, labour hire, casual, seasonal, contracted or sub-contracted workers).

• Review bargaining fee arrangements to ensure they are fair to workers, the union, and employers for the extension of collective bargaining outcomes to non-unionised workers.

• Review multi-employer and multi-union collective bargaining arrangements to encourage their use and to support the development of Fair Pay Agreements.

Ensuring the Government sets an example as an employer

Within the first 100 days in Government, Labour will:

• Ensure all workers in the core public service are paid at least the Living Wage and begin work with organisations that have regular and ongoing service contracts with the core public service to ensure they are Living Wage employers. We envisage the lowest-paid workers such as cleaners, catering staff and security guards will make significant moves towards the Living Wage during the first term of Government.

• Require all state agencies to only contract with organisations that comply with good employer practices, have a history of adhering to employment legislation, and respect the right of their workers to join a union and bargain collectively.

In Government, Labour will:

• Address pay equity claims through the process established by the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles.

Supporting Best Practice

Within the first 100 days in Government, Labour will:

• Commence the establishment of appropriate governmental assistance to provide support to employers and unions that wish to work together to implement high performance engagement systems designed to lift productivity through worker participation in decision-making.

• Reform the current Productivity Commission so that it has a focus on wage growth and addresses explicitly the development of appropriate high engagement-high performance measures and behaviours in New Zealand workplaces and industries.

• Begin expanding and enhancing skill development and industry training programs to support the growth of high performance workplaces, higher wages and a Just Transition for workers who need new skills to adapt to the changing nature of work.