With more than 1000 workers a week joining the dole queue I’m worried about the large number who are being laid off without notice or redundancy compensation. New Zealand laws have no entitlements to workers for notice or compensation in the event of redundancy, unless there is specific provision in an employment agreement.
Some employers go so far as to specifically prohibit redundancy payments in employment agreements. The thousands of commercial cleaners throughout the country earning just $12.55 an hour are a case in point.
Last week I asked the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, what she planned to do about the Public Advisory Report on Redundancy and Restructuring which was reported back under the last government, and recommends minimum notice and redundancy compensation. After months of saying it was “on her desk for consideration”, the Minister finally admitted that she has no intention of pursuing the recommendations, saying that, “It is not my priority to impose costs on businesses…”
We all know there’s a recession, but it can’t always be an excuse for doing nothing. It’s not good enough that all the cost of lay offs should be borne by workers and their families.
I have drafted a members’ bill on this topic based on the advisory group’s report and Labour’s manifesto promise. This is a conversation New Zealand needs to have.
Most OECD countries have at least minimum notice and many have redundancy compensation. Australia has minimum redundancy payments as one of the core provisions in awards that can’t be contracted out of. National is fond of quoting OECD countries when they want to compare growth, productivity and wages. I can live with that as long as the balance sheet on both sides – workers and employers – is equitably compared.
I’m completely open to considering how redundancy payments should be made and who by, taking into account small business pressures. Labour is having a look at Australia’s General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS), which provides a basic payment scheme for employees’ unpaid entitlements, such as redundancy pay, in situations of insolvency, where there are insufficient funds or assets available, and no other source of funds are available to pay these entitlements.
You might have some other ideas.