Jacinda Ardern walking 'centrist balance beam' by meeting with unions, Business New Zealand

After hearing from E tū delegates, Ardern will give a speech to Business New Zealand.
After hearing from E tū delegates, Ardern will give a speech to Business New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty

Yvette McCullough for RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walks a centrist balance beam this morning, meeting with E tū union delegates before giving a speech to Business New Zealand.

The unions wants to see movement on Fair Pay Agreements in the government's first 100 days.

But businesses say now - more than ever - the labour market needs flexibility.

Fair Pay Agreements were an area New Zealand First flexed its coalition muscle last term.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman said with them out of the way, there was no need for more delays.

"Securing sector standards where multiple employers are required to comply with standards from wages through to health and safety is a critical step in terms of reducing poverty and inequality," Newman said.

Newman wanted to see legislation drafted in the first 100 days.

"A working party report came out during the last term of government, that was a tripartite report so we think that the hard work has been done and it's now about putting it into a legislative format.

"We think that can be done within 100 days," Newman said.

Incoming Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said Labour was committed to fair pay agreements.

He said the working group laid out a clear road map, but he wouldn't put a timeline on progress.

"I'm not setting myself artificial timeframes about exactly when decisions will be made.

"We made it really clear in our manifesto that Fair Pay Agreements were something we intend to legislate for and implement in this term government and that's one of my top priorities," Wood said.

National MP Scott Simpson was concerned trade unions would hold too much sway over the new government, to the detriment of businesses.

He was hopeful Labour would get cold feet on fair pay.

"They said it would be a priority three years ago. It was an area they didn't deliver on and they didn't deliver on it for good reason.

"So I hope that again commonsense will prevail and they'll listen to business and weigh that up against the demands of the trade unions," Simpson said.

After hearing from E tū delegates this morning, Ardern will give a speech to Business New Zealand.

Its head Kirk Hope is eager for her to clearly lay out the government's Covid-19 recovery plan, including its border strategy.

"Giving some certainty to businesses that are relying on certainly getting essential and critical workers across the border and making sure that that can continue to happen on a regular basis," Hope said.

He hopes Ardern will heed the business community's concern about the need for flexibility in the labour market.

"If there are policies which put rigidities into the labour market which mean that people get locked out, for example younger and less skilled people, then that would be problematic. So I think those are things the government is going to need to consider before it implements, for example, Fair Pay Agreements," Hope said.

But Newman said removing inequality starts with giving workers a voice, and if workers are better off, so is the whole economy.