By Peter Wilson
A Labour Party Bill that would ensure contractors are paid the minimum wage has passed its first reading despite opposition from the Government.
The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill passed by 61 votes to 60 tonight.
National opposed it but United Future leader Peter Dunne, usually a Government ally, supported it.
The Bill states people engaged as contractors have few of the protections given to employees under the Minimum Wage Act.
Labour's David Parker drafted the Member's Bill.
He says certain types of work, such as delivering pamphlets, are not subject to any minimum wage requirements.
Employees are paid a fixed amount to deliver a fixed number of pamphlets, regardless of how long it takes them.
When the work they do is broken down on an hourly basis, they are often earning less than the $14.75 an hour minimum wage, he said.
"Some employers are getting round the Minimum Wage Act, and it's becoming more frequent," he said during the first reading debate.
"There are many countries that have minimum remuneration rather than a minimum wage so employers can't get around it."
National MPs said the bill was overly prescriptive and could make it difficult for low-skilled people to find jobs.
"There's an underlying assumption that employers aren't to be trusted, and I don't think that's right in our current environment," Andrew Bayly said.
Labour, the Greens, NZ First, the Maori Party and United Future supported the Bill.
National and ACT opposed it.
The Bill has been sent to the industrial relations select committee for public submissions.