18 May 2022
1. The New Zealand Chambers of Commerce appreciates the opportunity to make a submission on the proposed Fair Pay Agreement Bill and confirms it wishes to be heard by the Select Committee in support of this submission.
Address for service:
• To New Zealand Chamber Network Director and Auckland Business Chamber Chief Executive, Michael Barnett; Email: email@example.com; Phone 0275 631150.
2. The New Zealand Chambers of Commerce bring together 30 regional Chambers across the country, representing over 22,000 small and medium businesses who are active in contributing to the health, wealth and wellbeing of their regions, the national economy and growing GDP through international exports.
3. The Chambers’ members are diverse, ranging from professional service providers, manufacturers, freight companies, family-owned enterprises, retailers, and digital entrepreneurs pushing new levels of high-tech innovation and service offerings.
4. The Chamber is dedicated to supporting the sustainability and growth of private enterprise encouraging upskilling, entrepreneurship, and innovation to contribute to the development of New Zealand’s commercial success, international trade, visitor economy, and investment in infrastructure, technology, education, and cultural hubs.
5. Key to growth will be to reframe New Zealand’s reputation as a desirable place to live, work and play to attract the essential skills, capabilities, and competencies fit for the digital age.
6. Our members expect their views as business owners and employers to be forcefully represented in this Submission.
7. The Chamber approach is to establish constructive partnerships and relationships with policymakers and decision makers in government as well as other business organisations.
8. Our overarching aim is to champion equitable and fair outcomes to promote economic growth and social wellbeing, and a system that recognises and rewards talent addresses skill shortages and training needs and lifts the bar to build sustainable globally competitive excellence.
MAKE A MODEL THAT FITS THE FUTURE
9. The impact of Covid’s disruptions around the world and in New Zealand has been a circuit breaker, forcing a rapid shift to agile, technology-enabled operational, manufacturing, construction, finance, supply chain and service delivery models.
10. We live in a connected, digitally-enabled world where survival, competitive advantage and sustainable success for employers and employees is predicated on adaptability and adoption of the technology solutions, skills, aptitudes, behaviours and commitment to continual learning and improvement to enable peak performance in the new workplace wherever it is – in a factory, an office, a home or remotely with the world a borderless marketplace.
11. This Bill belongs in another era, one that has long been buried by private enterprise who seeks to recruit, reward and grow employee careers. It does, however, fit with the rigid hierarchies and pay scales that are so well defined in the public sector and contributes funds to unions to negotiate for members.
12. It’s hard to criticise good intentions to continue to raise the pay and conditions of the 5 per cent or so of our lowest wage earners and have mechanisms in place for all employees to be fairly rewarded. It is the way of the world and of this Government which is committed to securing economic recovery and investing in the wellbeing of New Zealanders with a balanced approach – as well as seeing through its election promises.
13. But there are costs for doing the right thing if the approach is wrong. Levelling the playing field and “stopping the race to the bottom” through fair pay agreements and compulsory negotiations that can be initiated by the minority to get sector wide agreements is not future thinking. That is days of futures past.
14. New Zealand already has comprehensive employment laws and can target interventions for sectors with bad employment outcomes.
15. A fair pay regime by compulsion will achieve nothing. Bad employers will still be bad.
16. Instead, government and business together, should strengthen existing standards.
17. Rather than imposing collective pay and conditions across whole sectors whether they are fit for purpose or not, the focus should be changed up to achieve a continually improving and progressive workplace culture that rewards lifelong learning and increased productivity.
18. It’s time to create a new model that captures today’s values and aspirations, builds on the best of now but looks out to the future rather than inwards back in time, a model that sets the bar high and recognises the new normal is values driven and people led.
RAISE THE BAR AND REWARD ASPIRATION
19. New Zealand needs a national transformation plan to attract, reward and retain the skills and capabilities to support an innovative, diversified, high tech and highly productive 21st century economy where we grow world class expertise and investment in priority niches be it agritech, food production, service and supply chain solutions or manufacturing computer chips.
20. Covid has exposed skills shortages and atrophied mindsets. Retaining and fostering talent is critical. We must change the narrative to create hunger and aspiration for excellence and sow the seeds for a revolution to take place across our education system. We need to grow curiosity, core numerical, language, comprehension, digital and analytical skills and keener social intelligence, to have a future proof workforce.
21. That revolution is already happening here, not just offshore, but across the private sector as employers realise winning customer preference means proving that who you are and what you stand for must be demonstrated across the value chain.
22. Increasingly, contemporary enterprises are realigning their vision, values, cultures, and behaviours to meet customer demands to demonstrate integrity, ethics, authenticity, accountability, and transparency to do right by the environment, the community, and their people – and publish independently audited reports on their impact, progress and challenges.
23. Businesses, including the 80 per cent of small and medium enterprises in New Zealand who employ 20 people or less, know success depends on being part of this movement and ensuring that their people, their employees, have the dignity, equity, and opportunity to have financial security, their health, safety, and wellness cared for, career development plans, timely communications and engagement and their performance reviewed so their contribution is recognised and fairly rewarded.
ALL IN IT TOGETHER DOES NOT MEAN FAIR
24. Wellbeing, equal opportunities for a step up and fairness is part of the Kiwi ethos. It is not enough of a foundation to create a prosperous future when workers are valued only by their hourly rate of pay not for the individual relevance of their skills, adaptability, mobility, and ability to learn.
25. The system being proposed will mean everyone’s pay being set across a whole industry for that role or class of employee. All assistant salespeople at the same pay, all hospital cooks paid the same. All managers paid the same. All IT programmers paid the same. All retail assistants with that title paid the same. How will the system cope with someone who is both a salesperson and a data analyst and won’t fit the box for that job class?
26. The differentiations in the Bill may permit differences based on district, class of employee or occupation but it still amounts to the same out of step thinking and refusal to recognise the need, particularly for private sector businesses, to compete to attract talent for hard to fill roles or plug skills shortages.
27. Business owners, the people who take the risks, put up their homes as the collateral to stay in business, generate employment and around 30 per cent GDP to the national economy, will lose their right to tailor a competitive package to attract and continually develop the right mix of skills and aptitudes to grow their enterprise and workforce.
28. In a free market, employers and employees must retain the right to negotiate an individual package that aligns compensation and reward with contribution and supports career advancement and ambitions with training and development.
29. If this Bill is shunted through in this form, New Zealand will perpetuate its default position of celebrating mediocrity and never motivating a tall poppy to bloom to realise their full potential.
OUT OF STEP
30. Government’s own advisors have counselled against the reforms, citing possible infringements of international labour and human rights obligations with workers having little choice but to join a union as the designated negotiator, the iniquitous no opt in or opt out provisions for employers, and the damage foreshadowed on targets to improve productivity, innovation, investment and competition for the good of the nation.
31. The proposal does not support voluntary bargaining but rather enforces it. That is an infringement of workers’ and employers’ right to freedom of association. It is out of step with best practice.
32. Other countries have moved to enterprise-level bargaining, after finding that sector-level bargaining was not conducive to good-quality economic outcomes or superior quality labour market outcomes.
33. This model for FPAs is not and will not achieve the worthy objectives cited in the Bill.
34. Being treated the same is not the same as being treated fairly.
35. Business cannot support this agenda and will not shut up or put up with compulsory collective bargaining rules.
FAIR BY CERTIFICATION MODEL A NEW WAY
36. The Chambers recognise that the FPA model is embedded in Labour’s union roots and doctrine, and pledge to electors and the Labour Party faithful.
37. We believe there is another way to ensure that employers behave ethically to achieve the desired outcomes.
38. As stated above the Chambers seek a new model that is fit for purpose and incentivises individual employee learning and development to compete in a digital age.
39. The private sector is resistant to reverting to a throwback, combative, unwieldy, and expensive labour relations regime that under any guise looks like compulsory unionism to match compulsory collective bargaining.
40. The Chambers propose that consideration be given to a new, independently audited and published rating or certification standard for firms that pay at least the minimum wage and put their reputations on the line to show the ethical values, behaviours, practices, and compensation, reward and skills development systems that make them a good – and appealing – employer.
41. The transparent and verified standard would be a guarantee to employees that their pay, leave entitlements, conditions of work, health, safety, wellbeing, and opportunity for career progression, skills development and continuous learning are fair and equitable.
42. As the system evolves the annual impact reports on social, financial, environmental, and ethical sourcing now used as part of authentic and transparent enterprises’ toolkits, could extend to measuring labour relations and employee care. This in turn would form part of the Company’s overall market compliance, performance measures and brand story to build integrity and preference via verified proof points.
43. The standards could have a star rating with different levels, audited each year by a peak business organisation like a chamber of commerce, or an audit could be initiated by an employee or group of employees who believe they are not being paid fairly for their contri bution.
44. Many private sector employers already publish a code of ethics and practice as part of how they attract good candidates for roles. The certification model would not be unwelcomed, but a key performance indicator, embraced in the same way as the B Corporation certification is taking off or the quality and ethical sourcing certifications that are now keenly sought as essential to winning customers.
45. The certification panel could have three members, including a representative from or selected by the Employment Relations Authority.
46. The checklist to determine a star rating would examine the provisions specified in the Bill including defining pay and penalty rates, normal hours, flexibility on work locations, sick, bereavement and holiday leave provisions, training and development arrangements and redundancy provisions.
47. The number of stars awarded would be progressive based on pay and conditions with one star for paying at least the minimum rate for a role and five star recognising a firm that offered a premium remuneration, reward and upskilling package.
48. The model would enable progressive employers to continue to lift the bar to nurture lifetime on the job learning and reward performance and productivity contributions instead of ringfencing a person and their prospects by their hourly rate which is what the Bill perpetuates.
49. The certification model would strongly motivate an employer who needs to lift their pay rates and provisions to do so or risk public exposure that would damage their reputation – their social licence to do business and most valuable asset.
50. That loss of reputation, embodied in a star rating, would be a powerful catalyst to identify failures and motivate behaviour change – and that will achieve, without the sledgehammer, the remit of the Bill.
51. The certification model could be voluntary as should any FPAs.
52. If there are disputes, either the certifier or as a next step, the ERA, can be brought in to arbitrate, mediate and make a final determination.
53. The Chambers would welcome any opportunity to progress a productive and constructive conversation to develop this certification framework for the private sector and the tens of thousands of enterprises and hundreds of thousands of employees who would benefit from a fair and streamlined pay and conditions system.
FPAS BY DICTATE WILL NOT WORK
54. While the Chambers want to progress an alternative model that will meet the private sector needs for flexibility, competitive appeal and differentiation, we recognise that the Government is moving down the path like a steamroller in a straight line, with heavy expectations to please the unions, as the employees’ negotiator.
55. We can expect the FPA in its current form, to be resisted and challenged by the private sector.
56. While the latest iteration of the Bill recognises the capacity and capability of respected organisations like the business chambers to be approved employer negotiators, we simply do not believe that compulsion is acceptable in 2022 or that all enterprises, public and private, good and bad, should be swept up in its grip.
57. Pursue the bad with targeted interventions, but one size does not fit all.
58. The promotion of FPA law should not serve as a membership and revenue drive for any group.
59. It is archaic to believe that workers should belong to a union. Just a trickle over 16 per cent of the workforce currently belong to one and there is no guarantee that the FPA will bolster union membership.
60. Under the FPA regardless of what employees might want, a union can trigger a fair pay agreement negotiation even if 90 per cent of the workers in an industry do not want one nor want to be represented or belong to a union, but minority rules. In fact, the union rules.
61. Many employers who currently have no involvement at all with unions will be forced to participate in this new bargaining framework and engage with unions for fair pay agreements.
62. Not all employers in an industry group will have a seat at the bargaining table, but all employers will be covered by the resulting agreement, even if they disagree with the outcome.
63. The agreements will be for individual organisational or job categories, which means a single business could be covered by multiple agreements, requiring different compliance standards for different workers in their business. In many businesses, especially in the SME sector, an employee may be required to carry out several tasks during the day, and each task could easily be covered by a separate FPA. For example, in many small businesses an employee could make the sale (a salesperson), pick pack and dispatch the goods (a store person), make the delivery (a driver), write up the invoice and input it into Xero (office person/accountant) then collect and bank the revenue (accountant). Who is going to arbitrate on which FPA applies? Lawyers will have a field day.
64. Current New Zealand employment law establishes a single set of minimum standards for all industries, with a small number of exceptions, such as the starting out wage versus the minimum wage.
65. For the most part, every employee, regardless of industry, must have a minimum rate of pay, leave entitlements and employment protections.
66. This means employers understand what to do when they offer someone a job and the penalties for failing in those clear obligations.
67. The Chambers’ suggestion of a rating system makes many of these issues redundant and eliminates complexity and costs.
COSTS AND COMPLEXITY
68. Government must recognise the damage Covid wreaked on the private and productive sector and the enormous challenge of rebuilding and staying solvent to employ workers and live up to their ambitions as responsible and accountable enterprises to feed families and the community.
69. For many employers, the main problem will be having to pay imposed salary and wage rates that they cannot afford given the introduction of minimum wages, additional sick leave, and rising operating costs from rents to interest rates, as well as restructuring and refining their offers.
70. The result will be increased risk of job losses, redundancies for out-moded skills, disincentivising training and apprenticeships and accelerating further automation and disintermediation of once manual and labour-intensive procedures and processes.
71. Business will be stung by compliance and administration costs as well as having to engage experts from lawyers to HR consultants to guide them through the new regime. Government will also have a heyday recruiting an army of bureaucrats to implement FPAs.
MEDIATION AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION
72. Fair Pay Agreements are going to be long and complex and are an open invitation to inevitable stalemates and mediation. They aim to establish rules for base rates of pay, pay scales, allowances, and overtime, which will all be different depending on the agreement itself.
73. Under the current proposal the Employment Relations Authority is the exclusive default mediator, using precedence to inform ruling, but they are also the final adjudicator.
74. Private enterprise cannot accept that position of a government sponsored body in this critical role. They are not state owned or run trading enterprises as found in other countries which apply this type of arbitration.
75. There are thousands of skilled, independent, and experienced mediators to use and ensure transparency and determination of issues.
VETTING AND RATIFICATION OF AGREEMENTS
76. The proposed law, having already given unions and now approved representative business organisation high office, also elevates the ERA as the body with the obligation to vet and approve each FPA if it ticks all the boxes.
77. Employees and employers covered by an FPA will be able to vote to ratify the binding agreement with a simple majority, overseen by the union and approved negotiators.
78. Once again, the ERA is the bulwark if the vote fails to support the FPA with power to fix the terms. Provisions also promulgated for MBIE oversight as well as supporting secondary legislation to nail down loose process in getting an FPA implemented.
79. No enterprise should be subjected to government dictating representation and ratification agencies.
80. Private sector business owners and employers cannot be disenfranchised to this degree. They must have the right to appoint their own experts.
81. The Chambers supports ethical, fair pay and opportunities.
82. This Bill will not achieve its purpose.
83. It will be costly, hard to action let alone implement and erodes the basic rights of employees and employers.
84. Defining which FPA applies to an individual employee, given the need for multi-disciplinary skills in SMEs, will be confusing and complex.
85. This Bill, couched in the language, job definitions and relationships of the past will not create the transformation New Zealand needs so urgently to compete globally and diversify its economy, lift productivity, and motivate, recruit, develop and retain skills that are relevant in the digital era to build prosperity.
86. The New Zealand Chambers of Commerce cannot support the Bill and its compulsory bargaining provisions and decisions.
87. The Chambers seek a new voluntary certification model that motivates and incentivises change for the better to lift the bar on pay rates and conditions to create a skilled, progressive, and productive workforce, rewarded for contribution and lifelong learning as part of an enterprise and its brand appeal.
88. We welcome the opportunity to participate constructively in finding a fair way forward with government and other organisations that can be implemented, gives workers – and employers – dignity, fairness and protects their right to choose and enables adaptation, flexibility and learning to meet our changing world.