November 18, 2008
Productivity debate must include workers
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union welcomes the establishment of a taskforce on productivity and says
strong workplace relations and decent training are essential elements to any long term improvement.
The call follows the announcement by National and ACT that they intend to set up an advisory group to address New
Zealand’s productivity rate and close the wage gap with Australia as part of their support agreement.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says strongly unionised sites with good workplace relationships are already
leading the way in productivity.
“We are working with employers to develop high performance workplaces which focus on using shop floor knowledge and
devolution of management responsibility to improve efficiency and increase productivity.
“Lifting the nation’s productivity requires attention to big issues like infrastructure and the economic conditions for
investment as well as paying attention to the kinds of activity that are supported, but the role of good employment
relations and modern work practices cannot be understated.
“If the idea of improving productivity just becomes a by-word for slashing pay and conditions, which is what it came to
mean in the 1990s, then workers won’t be engaged in the project and we’ll all be worse off as a result.
“Workers and their unions play a significant role in improving productivity and we look forward to the opportunity to do
Earlier this year the EPMU launched the Centre for High Performance Work – a joint venture with the Dairy Workers Union
aimed at increasing productivity through worker involvement – which is currently working with eight businesses.