Election 2023: Dump fair pay agreements, review of emissions targets on business and farmers' wishlists


Nowhere else in the world forces employers to the table for collective bargaining, the BusinessNZ chief executive says, while expressing a wish for them to be dumped by the incoming government.

BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions both say they hope the new government will be more responsive to their needs.

Both organisations seem to agree that the last government didn't always seem to have a good ear for what people were saying.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said there were three clear areas where the business sector wanted to see change - fair pay agreements, 90-day trials and firm commitments on infrastructure.

Fair pay agreements introduced last year brought together unions and employer associations. National has vowed to repeal the law.

Hope said business expected to see them abolished.

"Despite what people will tell you, nowhere in the world compels employers to the table for collective bargaining purposes, so that would be one area," he told Morning Report.

However, CTU chief economist Craig Renney said existing ones should be retained and the process of those being negotiated at present should continue.

Labour also introduced restrictions to 90-day work trials that were brought in under Sir John Key's National government.

It would be useful to have those trials fully operational again during tight employment conditions, Hope said.

Renney said he hoped any changes would be "well thought through" and evidence-based.

Treasury had concluded 90-day trials made little difference in the real economy or to hiring practices.

"We don't see any great economic rationale for bringing them back; they just bring workers insecurity in New Zealand."

Hope said some significant commitments were required on infrastructure.

He did not expect any possible involvement of New Zealand First in a National-ACT government would cause unease in business circles.

When NZ First was part of the original Labour-Greens government they weren't in favour of fair pay agreements and some of their ideas were included in subsequent employment law, he said.

Renney said the CTU wanted to see the new government's plans for infrastructure, solving child poverty and post-cyclone recovery.

He denied the CTU ran a negative campaign on National and its leader Christopher Luxon during the election.

Renney said there were real issues on how National's tax package had been put together and the impact of the loss of fair pay agreements, such as for those working in the hospitality industry.

"We would raise those issues regardless of whether or not it's National or Labour in office because our job is to raise issues for our 300,000-odd members but it's also to highlight to New Zealand what the impact of either party's policies are."

Hope said the incoming government would need to have a good look at the books. He hoped that if it did not seem to be fiscally appropriate National would not proceed with tax cuts.

Asked if he was worried that the new government might rely on rising house prices and higher rates of immigration to bolster demand in the economy, he responded that it would be a worry if there were no changes to the way foreign direct investment was managed.

"Because that's clearly a pathway to productivity so just having more people to do more stuff is not going to contribute to productivity.

"Getting more capital and more capital intensity into industries is certainly a pathway to stronger productivity so expect to see and hope to see changes in that space."

As for plans to have "smaller government", with National and ACT planning on greater efficiencies while reducing the size of the public service, Kirk said that might drive higher productivity but the fiscal plan would have to be robust.

Renney said the country had "a housing market with an economy tacked on famously" so if it that was be given a boost by a change of government, it would mean rising house prices and higher rents without delivering any productivity gains.

"So the challenge is going to be how are we going to make investments that are going to deliver and diversify the economy so we are more resilient because we have too much of our economy locked into too few sectors."

Climate change and foreign competition would impact on the economy which needed to be widened, he said.

Renney said on planned cuts to the public service, there was no doubt government underinvestment decisions were exposed once something significant such as a cyclone occurred.

"So that's where we need to be seeing that long-term plan and that long-term vision for investment not only in the public sector but also hard infrastructure in New Zealand..."

Farmers want emissions targets reviewed

Federated Farmers says it hopes the National government listens to rural communities, and keeps its promises.

The National Party and ACT ran campaigns with promises to remove a lot of bureaucratic regulation out of farming, and to boost rural economies if elected.

Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford told Morning Report, many farmers were happy with the result.

However, he said he wants regulations like climate emissions to be a key focus.

"To move forward with this discussion we really need the main targets to be reviewed; that's really important to farmers.

"We've got no problem with the direction of travel as such but we need to make sure that where we're going or the targets that we are meeting are correct."

Farmers were on board with National's plans to have on-farm emissions measured by 2025 and priced by 2030, he said.

Langford also wants to see the ute tax removed, and for it to be easier for young farmers to use their KiwiSaver for investing in their first farm.

There also needed to be discussions around gene editing and genetic modification, he said.

"We're encouraging the conversation to be had ... the science has moved on since last time we had the conversation, we need to look at it again."