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.
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
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."