The big picture of Decent Work

Hon Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Hon Grant Robertson

Commitment to Decent Work and the Future of Work have been some of the Labour Party’s and the Labour Government’s guiding principles.

When we were in Opposition, we created the Future of Work Commission. That commission’s kaupapa was based around how we make sure that the future of work is one where workers have decent wages, security, and are involved in the way the new working environment is shaped.

It really cuts across about four areas. The first of which, of course, is around income. We recognise that, in this era of precarious employment and the impact through the 1990s of union membership lowering, that we’ve seen a significant loss of the share of income by working people.

We’ve worked hard to strengthen collective bargaining, to make sure there are opportunities for everybody to come together and support higher incomes. There’s obviously been direct intervention as well, and I note that the latest minimum wage increase gets us to close to the Living Wage.

The second area, and one that I think is critically important to a future of Decent Work, is skills training. The Government has committed to putting enormous resources into this. One of the things that emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic that I’m very proud of is that we made apprenticeships and targeted trade training free.

The third area is around participation, and I want to thank the CTU for its incredible work in supporting us around the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme and its development.

I also want to highlight something that is important in terms of the way we create Decent Work, and that is our Industry Transformation Plans. These are about bringing all the players and industry together, to be able to plan up to 50 years ahead for what that industry might look like.

Finally, the fourth point is around the concept of a Just Transition. We simply cannot go forward in a Future of Work that continues to damage the planet in the way that we have seen up to now.
These are some of the areas where we’re working on Decent Work. We’re really excited about the possibilities of continuing to work further with E tū and the wider union movement on the Decent Work Charter.

Hon Michael Wood, Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety

It’s a Kiwi value that people are treated fairly and decently. Sadly, however, in the workplace some people do not have the dignity and opportunity provided by Decent Work. Since our founding, the Labour Party has been committed to improving the lives of everyday Kiwis. We’ve made real progress on many fronts, but there’s still work to do.

Implementing Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) will make a fundamental difference to the lives of many Kiwis. They will stop the race to the bottom, where employers can be incentivised to offer poor pay and conditions to get a competitive advantage. FPAs will allow the setting of a basic set of statutory minimum terms and conditions for all workers so that people can enjoy security and stability in their working lives. It won’t provide an instant fix, but it will start to rebalance the scales and give us the ability to reintroduce dignity back into workplaces.

We are also progressing work around ending the abuse of the contractor model. Many workers in New Zealand have little control and agency over their work and often have inferior terms and conditions. They are treated as individual contractors and carry the cost and risk of that arrangement, when in reality they should have the protections of employment.

Decent Work is about being treated fairly, having a voice, and being respected as a worker. As a Government, we will continue to work towards a New Zealand where all workplaces are fair, safe, and productive, where workers have dignity and are respected. I thank E tū for the critical role you play in achieving this for Kiwi workers.

Hon Michael Wood