Government brings in Bolger to spearhead contentious workplace reform

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announce the working group
Jim Bolger will be part of a 10-person working group.
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says he wants to make a framework that lasts.

The coalition government has started work on its most radical labour reform – minimum standards for all workers in an industry or occupation.

It has announced former Prime Minister Jim Bolger will lead a working group to make suggestions on how to create a sector-level bargaining system. The group must report back to Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway by the end of the year. It will get about $300,000 in funding from the Ministry of Business' baseline budget for policy work. 

The government says fair pay agreements will be based on generally accepted minimum terms and conditions in the industry and be set by collective bargaining between unions and employers.

It says in a release strikes or lockouts will not be permitted in negotiations for a fair pay agreement. Mr Lees-Galloway says fair pay agreements will resist a race to the bottom for workers.

“Aspects of the labour market are failing,” he said, adding that he wanted "business voices at the table.” 

“We can and must do better for middle New Zealanders. Fair pay agreements will establish a framework for employers and employees to work together constructively to lift wages and productivity.”

“Workers and employers know their sector best. By working together through effective engagement and bargaining cooperatively, workers and employers can set standards that are relevant to their sector and support productivity and growth.”

Mr Bolger said the group was bipartisan and the work was important because “some have made obscene wealth and some are missing out altogether. The middle is almost forgotten.”

The former National prime minister, who passed the Employment Contracts Act, crushing unions under his leadership during the 1990s, said it was an area he was particularly interested in.

Before the election last year BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the policy was a substantial change to the framework which industrial relations had been conducted within in the last 30 years.

"Business would be concerned if the fair pay agreements resembled national awards which caused strikes and economic decline in the past.”

He says employers would have to take part in the bargaining even if they didn’t want to, and smaller employers may not be able to afford it when wages went up.

Council for Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said in June last year a fair pay agreements policy was celebrated by working people and was the way of the future.

Working group members:

• Jim Bolger – 35th prime minister of New Zealand, former minister of labour

• Stephen Blumenfeld – director, Centre for Labour, Employment and Work at Victoria University

• Steph Dyhrberg – partner, Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law

• Anthony Hargood – chief executive, Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union

• Kirk Hope – chief executive, BusinessNZ

• Vicki Lee – chief executive, Hospitality NZ

• Caroline Mareko – senior manager, communities and participation, He Whānau Manaaki o Tararua Free Kindergarten Association

• John Ryall – assistant national sSecretary, E tū

• Isabelle Sin – fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, and adjunct senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington

• Richard Wagstaff – president, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions


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29 Comments & Questions

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Hopefully Jim will recover something of the clarity of principle and vision behind the original ECA. And be less of a defender of increasing state involvement across the economy which he has been in recent years

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You can't get a fairer group selected than that one - as many from the right as there are from the left

This government is much better than you thought - but can't yet admit for patriotic right leaning reasons - not what is best for NZ Inc

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Well Mr Scribe, seeing as you seem to know so much about this $500,000 "workin" group. Name just one of them that has started their own business from scratch? Pl;ease.

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Why on earth Jim Bolger?! Why dig up these relics from the past who have no reputation for outstanding thinking and whose government was far too close to other NZBR, with its damaging, ideological agenda?

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There's one thing Germany got right after having to reset their whole way of life in the late 1940's and that was they had workers representation in the boardroom. In many cases they even had a shareholding. I don't think it's done them any harm.

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Boards are ineffective
Its CEO's top team that counts - until you re-tune $ incentives NOTHING will change
As an aside Germany's looking pretty poked now thanks to MMP

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All things considered, Germany's economy continues to do well. In fact, it's been doing well for most of the post war period, apart from the years immediately after reunification. And, even then, it managed the inclusion of the former communist East far better than most other countries would have done. Meanwhile, its electoral system has provided it with nearly 70 years of stable, democratic government, in defiance of all reasonable immediate postwar expectations. Yes, it's struck a problem over the last year in finding a strong, represe4ntative government. But it's a little early, don't you think, to declare the developed world's most successful major democracy a failure.

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All things considered, Germany's economy continues to do well. In fact, it's been doing well for most of the post war period, apart from the years immediately after reunification. And, even then, it managed the inclusion of the former communist East far better than most other countries would have done. Meanwhile, its electoral system has provided it with nearly 70 years of stable, democratic government, in defiance of all reasonable immediate postwar expectations. Yes, it's struck a problem over the last year in finding a strong, represe4ntative government. But it's a little early, don't you think, to declare the developed world's most successful major democracy a failure.

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Germany recovered in no small part due to the London Depth Agreement of 1953, the repayable amount in money owed by Germany to government and private banks in the U.S., France and Britain (where 16 billion marks represented post-war loans by the U.S alone) was reduced by 50% to about 15 billion marks and stretched out over 30 years, this ensured the debt was of minor impact compared to the fast-growing German economy

An important term of the agreement was that repayments were only due while West Germany ran a trade surplus, and that repayments were limited to 3% of export earnings. This gave Germany’s creditors a powerful incentive to import German goods, assisting reconstruction.

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Jobs for the boys
Its like Monty Pythons bring out your dead
Off to buy flared pants now

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See 2 above.

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Reality will hit - like Kiwibank (dead dodo)

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Bolger!! they have to be joking. how many "reform' committees have this lot set up since election? I've lost count.

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But wait theres more
Why are they rolling out all the mothballs? - none have any cred

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Are they not at basically the same level of "working groups" as National had upon coming in? From what I've seen, seems to be about that.

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The hollowed out will all be vacuumed into government quangos c/- nanny state
Agree sentiments - but will this kill struggling businesses?

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Less committees than National had old boy

And what they found out that the P housing issue that National created was not even an issue
They are doing more about housing than Nick Smith did in 9 years
And the health and education systems are broken and now getting fixed
What planet are you in John

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Thankfully I am most definitely not from the same planet as you.
You read??? The Nats went with what the "Health experts" said, re "P".
Tell us again, how many houses has Twyford built?
Our "health and education" is right up there with OECD.
Please scribe do not limit your study to what Mr Twyford and Mr Hipkins says.
Also what's this I hear that Labour is closing schools that are successfully teaching kids that mainstream schools have kicked out?

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So when an employer can’t or won’t pay the new rate, we will have strikes.
And when they do agree reluctantly, we will have a higher cost of living for everybody (in an international trading world where other countries are more competitive). And productive people will face the prospect of paying more in capital gains and other new taxes in pursuit of a ‘fairer society’ if the Loser Coalition makes it back in. Terrific, we'll all be better off - not!

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35th doesn't sound like much of an achievement
Rest appear to be Labour candidates with learner wheels on
Wheres the real strong union people?????

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How are they going to stop companies from avoiding such a law, just by changing job descriptions? Or from turning their workers into contractors. Like what Telecom did to their lines repair technicians.

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Employers almost never get away with that. The courts have a history of ignoring that sort of obfuscation and looking at the real nature of the relationship.

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Aha income increase
Most of committee have never held a real job or had real staff - Puff the Magic Dragon report coming

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Instead of outsourcing
National & Labour both poor at this
Helens back so's Jim. Pity Muldoons dead

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You writing about Buffoon, the architect of Think Big, Wage & Price Freeze and National Super? Thank goodness NZ woke up from its daze from that nincompoop’s interventionist policies - late but salvageable.

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Recalling an octogenarian - knocking on the door of Senility - to bring verve and vitality to the Think Tank. Yep, it makes sense.

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Bolger known as an Irish Joke. With his appointment, will that perception be continued.

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Even worse. Bolger is the culprit who was the clown who set in place the tools for MMP. Now he has once more entered NZ political scene. In the 1990s he got fired as National Party Leader. Maybe he hasn't gotten over his dumping.Go figure.

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There's a name missing from the group, Jim Bolgers old mate Bill birch. Get Birch involved and then they can come up with really good employment contracts type of deal that the workers of NZ can really enjoy.
Be there with Bolger.
Ah hang on a minute while I go off and be sick to my stomach.
The poor old worker of NZ has heard it all before, and after hearing Bolgers name will be getting very worried at what he will come up with. Very worried indeed.

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