Fair Pay Agreements: Biggest shakeup in workplace relations passes into law

The biggest shakeup in the power of workplace relations has just passed into law.

It'll see sector-wide employment agreements negotiated if 1000 workers or 10 percent of a workforce demand it.

The sands of power are shifting between workers and their bosses because of the new Fair Pay Agreements legislation.

"It is about the most basic and longstanding of Kiwi values. The value of a fair go," said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood. 

"Old fashioned socialism. Old fashioned socialism!" said National MP Scott Simpson. 

The new law means entire industries can negotiate for contracts for every one of its workers.

One of the first cabs off the fair pay agreement rank will be hospitality, including for workers like Xavier Walsh who works at McDonalds.

"It means that people will have the opportunity to get fair working conditions, fair wages, fair pay for fair work," he said. 

What the unions are taking to the negotiating table specifically for hospo is health and safety standards, bullying and sexual harassment processes, guaranteed breaks, meal allowances, overtime and penalty rates and the living wage as the starting rate.

But while the hospo workers celebrate, their bosses commiserate, saying its costly and complicated. 

"They're forcing something through on the back of the trade unions saying, 'you owe us'," said Jeremy Smith from Hospitality New Zealand.

Walsh said it needs to be clear "that this industry in this current state isn't working".

But National leader Christopher Luxon disagrees. 

"It's served us well. The current arrangements have served us well."

Wood responded by saying: "It's easy for a man who earns $280,000 a year to tell a minimum wage worker that everything's okay, that nothing needs to change."

While it will only take 10 percent of a workforce to trigger a negotiation, once an agreement is nutted out then half of all of the workers and half of all of the employers have to sign it off.

But that could all be undone if National gets into power. It's promising to rip up the law entirely.