Enjoy Labour Weekend, and remember those still fighting for fair pay and conditions

For almost two hundred years the trade union movement has fought for the eight-hour day, and on Labour Day weekend we celebrate this ongoing struggle.


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While thousands of Kiwis enjoy a well-earned long weekend, thousands of others can only imagine what a 40-hour week would feel like.

"Labour Weekend is about spending time with loved ones, it’s about cricket and beers at the beach, but it’s also about remembering how hard previous generations fought to enjoy any time off at all," says Erin Polaczuk, National Secretary of the Public Service Association.

"We used to work 16-hour days in appalling conditions, and some employers would bring that back in a heartbeat if unions weren’t around to stop them. How much has changed? Many Kiwis will be pressured to work on Monday by their boss or will be unable to afford the time off."

Decades spent allowing the unfettered market to determine the rules governing this country’s workplaces have left New Zealanders working some of the longest hours in the developed world.

New Zealanders who work in industries such as supermarkets, cleaning or as security guards are often employed on insecure contracts by employers determined to keep the price of labour as low as possible and stretch out the working day as far as they can.

These jobs have been singled out as focus areas for Fair Pay Agreements, new industrial laws promised by the Labour-led government that will introduce consistent pay and conditions covering all workplaces in a given sector.

Consultation on the government’s latest FPA discussion paper closes in late November, and union members around New Zealand are growing impatient to see concrete proposals on the table.

The independent Fair Pay Agreement Working Group released its recommendations in December 2018, and the PSA calls on the government to implement them.

"Our members think there’s been enough waffle from politicians already. We don’t want to see the Working Group recommendations watered down or sidestepped through another round of consultation with big business," says Ms Polaczuk.

"Our country already learned industry wide bargaining is effective with the equal pay settlement for care and support workers. In the biggest ever poll of NZ workers, we learned through the PSA’s Workplace Dynamics Survey that exhaustion and feeling undervalued is all too prevalent. We need change now."

As we celebrate Labour Day for the 129th time, the PSA urges all politicians - both in the coalition government and outside of it - to consider what they can do to make New Zealand a better and fairer place to live.

"Too many low paid New Zealanders either survive by working well over 40 hours a week, or struggle to get by with less than 40 hours a week guaranteed," says Ms Polaczuk.

"Nobody should live in poverty, and certainly not anyone ready and able to work full time. It’s time for those standing in the way of fair pay and conditions to get with the programme, listen to the voices of low paid Kiwis struggling to get by, and make those election promises a reality."