Government ministers play down coalition clash over employment law
, Political Reporter
Another stoush may be brewing between Labour and New Zealand First over changes to employment law, but government
ministers from both parties are playing down the prospect.
It would also prevent employers from being able to opt out of Multi-Employer Collective Agreements, or MECAs, at the
outset of bargaining.
The legislation was recently returned from select committee with no material changes.
But speaking to reporters, NZ First leader Winston Peters signalled the legislation was not set in stone.
"This is a work in progress," he said. "It always has been.
"We've always had regard for all the submissions, and in the fullness of time, you will see how a coalition government
NZ First MP Shane Jones, who's also regional development minister, said provincial businesses were particularly worried
about the MECA changes.
"I am the provincial champion and it is my mandate to continue to reflect their anxiety and concerns."
He said Mr Peters was discussing the matter with the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"The matter at the moment, as far as I know, is with our rangatira, the office of the leader and the office of the prime
minister," Mr Jones said.
But Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway - a Labour MP - played down the prospect of any change and said he
was pressing ahead with the Bill "in its current form".
"There's always conversations going on, but at this stage the Bill has been reported back from select committee and the
next bit is second reading," Iain Lees-Galloway said.
National MP Scott Simpson said there was "trouble at mill" between the Coalition parties.
"For Winston Peters to say that this is still a 'work-in-progress' is actually Winston-speak for... 'I want to assert
New Zealand First's authority on this legislation'.
"If that's the case, and it looks very much like it is, then Labour has a real big problem," Scott Simpson said.
NZ First MP and Minister Tracey Martin said she believed the caucus still supported the legislation as it did during the
first vote in Parliament.
Asked whether NZ First could pull its support, she said she'd heard no such suggestion.
"Nobody has had any discussion like that with me and we've had no discussion like that inside of caucus," Tracey Martin
"Essentially what you would be requiring is a bunch of employers from across the country to agree terms and conditions
that are consistent across the country without acknowledgement of regional variations in things like wages, so those
things are really going to hurt provincial New Zealand."
Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said the criticism was "quite alarmist" and the changes went some way
to restoring rights eroded over the past nine years.