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Fair Pay Agreements: Thank you Helen and thank you Michael

Written By: - Date published: 10:14 am, October 27th, 2022 - 43 comments
Categories: employment, michael wood, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

Yesterday was a big day for the Progressive movement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Fair Pay Agreements Bill made its way through Parliament and is now waiting for Royal Assent before it becomes law.

The motivation for the Law dates back to National’s mother of all budgets as well as the Employment Contracts Act.  That Act was designed to severely attack the Union Movement and drive workers’ wages down.

It worked.  The country has descended into poverty induced chaos ever since.

The Fifth Labour Government improved things somewhat.  Working for Families meant that ordinary families coped better, but because of state support, not better wages and conditions.

There has been a lot of angst thrown at this Government.  Why has it not improved things for ordinary people at a time when its power was as strong as we can ever hope for.

Well four reasons.

Firstly we have been through a one in a 100 years health crisis.  We have come out of it pretty well.  Compare our death rates to the US or the UK and then complain.  Although the local debate does not occur with this context.

Secondly this Government has reversed the mother of all budget benefit cuts and actually went further.

Thirdly we now have fairly full employment and increasing wages.  If it was not for the Ukraine war and internationally induced inflation then things would be improving dramatically.

Fourthly housing stocks are on the improve.

And now there is a fifth reason.  The introduction of fair pay agreements is the most significant change to the Industrial Relations system since the Employment Contracts Act.

There are many heroes but two should be acknowledged.  Helen Kelly who advocated strongly for this change and Michael Wood who did the hard work in getting it through.

The third reading debate was a joy.  Grumpy right wingers promising to repeal the law if given a chance.  Left wingers praising the change and pointing out the potentially significant benefits there are for ordinary workers.

During the debate Michael Wood said this:

This one’s for Helen Kelly. Over the course of this debate, we’ve talked about the people that fair pay agreements will help—those who clean, those who care, those who drive, those who serve—workers who, for 30 years, have been left out in the shadows of our deregulated labour market. And sometimes, when you know the problem, you need someone who will help to light the way, and Helen was that person for so many of us. Helen spoke directly about the problems; Helen spoke directly and issued challenges to those of us who could make a difference. She said to Rebecca Macfie, who wrote her biography, “We don’t need low wages in this country. There’s no excuse for it. People should be able to go to work, work their hours, and have a decent standard of living at the end of the week.” And, as Rebecca Macfie said, reflecting on that, “It was a matter-of-fact comment that belied a monumental ambition to shake up the movement she now lead so that it worked for all workers and to build the case for a law change that would stop workers’ wages being eroded in a competitive race to the bottom.”

Helen Kelly’s challenge was to all of us: it was to our economy, it was to decision makers in this House, and it was indeed to the union movement—to stop looking inwards and just looking after short-term interests, and to look outwards to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of workers who needed a change.

And Grant Robertson gave a barnstormer of a closing speech in the debate.

National’s promise to repeal the law when it regains power is the perfect reason for progressives to campaign heavily for a progressive government next term.  The system once bedded in should be able to withstand right wing attacks.  But next year it will still be vulnerable to right wing attacks.  As will the aspirations of our poorest paid workers.

For the meantime this is a reason for celebration.  Well done Labour Government.

43 comments on “Fair Pay Agreements: Thank you Helen and thank you Michael ”

  1. Personally I marched against the Contracts Act of Bill Birch and National 30 years ago.

    It started the race to the bottom with workers having to work for poorer pay and to not have any say about work conditions.

    Helen Kelly and Michael Wood Thank you for fighting for Fair Pay Agreements. IMO this is huge.

    • Tiger Mountain 2.1

      Me too–marched against ECB.
      FPAs are huge, because they open a door for working class organising. FPAs will need lots of work, nothing is being handed directly to people despite employers already catastrophising, whinging, bleating and threatening.

      WFF always seemed off because it was another taxpayer transfer, rather than working class and middle class people obtaining their own pay rises from employers.
      And it was unfair because those on benefits, discarded by Rogernomics and ground into the dust by MOAB, market rents & punitive WINZ/MSD were never eligible for WFF.

      This is the hook that is needed to keep the Natzos and ACT out. It is traditional Labour type policy, big ups to Mr Wood.

  2. Kat 3

    Next big one to knock off is the reinstatement of a 21st century Ministry of Works. That would send the opposition into a real headspin.

    • Tiger Mountain 3.1


    • Corey Humm 3.2

      Hell yeah. There's definitely a case for it and there could be several models for it. I wouldn't carbon copy the old one but I'd use it as an inspiration.

      There definitely should be a government owned construction and development corporation, perhaps a smaller version of the old ministry of works that gets govt funded housing and project contracts or one that is able to compete with fletchers.

      It could be done and managed well could be very profitable and beneficial to NZs housing and infrastructure crises.

      • Tiger Mountain 3.2.1

        Could provide full time work, or as full time as people want, and return some infrastructure management to the public. Contractors Fulton Hogan always seem to be busiest doing odd stuff when their funding allocation needs to be used up!

      • Kat 3.2.2

        Anything owned or run by the state is anathema to the neolib idealogue, lets face it they want everyhing privatised from schools, hospitals, prisons, military, utilities, etc etc even welfare is privatised. Just look at Nicola Willis and Nationals latest idea of philanthropy funding welfare, just like back in the Victorian era. You can just imagine the tax deductability for the wealthy in a scheme like that.

  3. mike 4

    Congratulations and thanks to Michael Wood and the whole labour party for delivering this blow against catastrophic neo-con nastiness. Chip by chip the hideous edifice neo conservatives have duped the world into admiring is being dismantled. Their avarice, lying and threats are blinking in the headlights as the steam roller rattles forward. The dictatorship of the salesmen is over.

  4. Peter Kelly 5

    It really is simple, anything other than 'a fair days' pay for a fair days' work' is akin to slavery; anyone who disagrees is therefore a supporter of slavery. We, and the National Party especially, should be ashamed that we have relied on exploited immigrant labour to keep wages low. I can only hope the new law will be a start in remedying that – and that Labour gets (at least) another term to entrench the legislation.

  5. Tony Veitch 6

    Easy to see who the 'enemies of the people' are.

    The battle lines are being drawn for next year's election: Natz and Act for the 1% and their 9% enablers, and the rest of us bottom feeders championed by the Greens, Labour and Ti Pati Maori.

    • Incognito 6.1

      “We have worked alongside employers, workers, academics and civil society to strike the right balance in the Bill. I thank everyone who has constructively contributed to the development of the Act, especially the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group, chaired by Rt Hon Jim Bolger, which provided the initial recommendations.


    • Act must be kept from the levers of power. Bottom Feeders Unite!!

    • Thinker 6.3

      The only way they can get rid of this legislation is by more legislation.


      By Rich capitalists for Rich capitalists?

      Time will tell, but I think NACT doesn't realise we've left the greed of the boomer days behind.

      We all want to do well for ourselves but I think the new breed of centre right voters (swinging voters) will, if they haven't experienced the outcomes of Ruthenasia) will have stood next to someone who has. And many will remember their own times in low paid jobs.

      After two terms of Labour this could be Nationals election to win but it needs to rid itself of the horse and buggy thinking and there's no sign of that yet.

    • newsense 6.4

      National hates Fair Pay. You’re essential workers to us.

    • Tricledrown 6.5

      Seymour is so far away from the average NZer he begrudges workers enough money to feed house and heat their families.The last 2 years have seen the wealthy increase their wealth exponentially while the middle classes are now going to food banks while most of the money printed around the world has gone to the very wealthy speculating on property causing more hardship for most of the worlds people.Seymour is advocating for more Tricleup policies.

  6. Kat 7

    “Unions by stealth………”

    How long before we see the 2023 version of 'Dancing Cossacks' in the media……..the influence and power of the corporates and the constant whinging and whining of business and fed-farmers will be unleashed through the media in election year.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 7.1

      whining of business and fed-farmers

      WELL fed-farmers at that. Theres been quite a few comments on here previously exactly how WELL NZ business and farmers…are actually doing ! Never mind their continuous "organ" grinding. IMO should really be the world smallest violin. : )

      • Kat 7.1.1

        The smashing of the unions in NZ was driven by the corporate, business, farming and transport sectors that were in turn driven by the neolib idealogue politicians, financiers and bankers.

        How dare some grubby faced coal miner, seaman, railwayman or engineer hold out for better pay………

  7. JeremyB 8

    sums it up well

  8. PsyclingLeft.Always 9

    If its possible…that Helen Kelly is smiling somewhere…..it will be so.

    She was a Brave, Stand-Up Leader..to me, and many Workers

    And also big Respect for Michael Wood. He another Labour Star. Keep on this track Labour. We need you to STOP nact..from ever getting their poisonous claws on NZ again !

  9. adam 10

    I love paraphrasing Grant Robertson.

    "By design, the Tory's want to hurt working people."

    Is their design ideological?

    At this point the nat's look like a punch drunk Boxer

  10. Was telling him indoors the Bill had passed its 3rd reading.

    "Bloody marvellous!!" he said, 'Hope people use the legislation to agree their rights"

  11. Mat Simpson 12

    " Why has it not improved things for ordinary people at a time when its power was as strong as we can ever hope for !

    Oh Mickey you are on fire you actually really believe this stuff and you suffer from delusion.








    Helen Kelly’s challenge was to all of us: it was to our economy

    No its not our economy and hasn't been for 35 years and there is so much that could of been achieved to rectify that with a historic MMP majority but no change to the power of the 1 % and Lino and its enablers.

    Full credit to Michael for this move but where is the safeguards to protect so many more in this plutocracy ?

    Left wingers praising the change and pointing out the potentially significant benefits there are for ordinary workers.

    What left wingers ? those that are ” left ” are no longer have any influence.

    How about this as an idea no socialism, just basic regulated capitalism!

    They just don't have the balls to be a real Labour government.

    • adam 12.1

      Read kiwi blog and the other far right web sites that call themselves the right.

      To them what labour have done is full blown communism.

      So if you don't mind I'll take this small win. One which makes the right this rabid has got to be better for workers.

      Your right it's a small gain – but with the ideological rigidity of those who infest the civil service we could hardly get anything more.

      The above is my opinion and sorry incognito not going to link to the david farrar loony far right dirty politics machine.

      • Incognito 12.1.1


      • Mat Simpson 12.1.2

        " Read kiwi blog and the other far right web sites that call themselves the right "

        No I don't care what they spew out as nonsensical garbage.

        I deal with the real world and the people who are economic refugees of this neo liberal repressive system that sells itself as protectors of freedom and democracy.

        This Labour party is a long way away from what it was founded to do before it drank from the corporate cool aid.

        Yes it is a small win Adam by a Labour government with a majority not seen since 1990 under FPP.

        " ideological rigidity of those who infest the civil service we could hardly get anything more "

        Know thy enemy while in opposition then exert authority….

        The professional Managerial Class of Wellington Bureaucrats and the vested interests that control our economy.

      • Shanreagh 12.1.3

        but with the ideological rigidity of those who infest the civil service we could hardly get anything more.

        When these 'reforms' were put through in the late 80s and 90s the Public Service departments showing ideological rigidity were mainly Treasury and for the State Sector SSC. They were captured very early on in the process with Graham Scott/Chicago school and for the State Sector 'Stan the man' or Stan Roger. These two depts were had to vet anything that went up to Cabinet/cabinet Cttees. We could not get anywhere. All sorts of ideas were used to get around this, such as Ministers taking material direct to Cabinet where their deps had not had a fair go. Ministers pushing material to Cabinet that should have been limited to the Cttees so that they could try to get allies on side against the 'puritans on the cabinet Committees. The two Ministers I worked for Nat/Lab worked hard against some of the worst neo-lib excesses as they applied to their depts.

        Other departmental heads were appalled, I know of many who fought tooth and nail over the waste of talented people thrown aside in the endless restructurings in pursuit of Chicago school ideology.

        Then came the quasi political appointments to the CEs of departments when we had endless numbers of appointments, many from overseas, who had a dearth of knowledge about NZ, its people, the departments they were working for……

        Neo lib is a wily and poisonous creed. I think (perhaps hope) that now CE appointments are slowly turning back to talented NZers who have experience in the NZ Public Sector.

        Of course some (home grown and imported) don't know the conventions about dealing with politicians in their role as Ministers etc, The most notable example being the former head of MSD who broke client confidentiality and advised, his NP minister, on the spurious grounds of 'no surprises', personal details of Winston Peters.

  12. DS 13

    A truly wonderful development… though somewhat soured by the sense that Wood had to fight his own Government every step of the way on this. Why else would it have taken them so long?

    • Darien Fenton 13.1

      DS because Winston refused to vote for it and Labour didn't have the numbers until 2020. Then we had a little pandemic.

  13. The passing of the FPA is a great day. Like many of the so-called reforms back in the late 80s and 90s many people with commonsense could have told the Govts that these reforms cost, in human-terms, more than they gave back. And Grant Robertson's speech…..brilliant.

    Now, ever onwards, looking at you Megan Woods, what can we do about energy costs? Can we do something to unroll the Bradford 'reforms'.

    Always good to see, not, headlines like this. These changes have now come to pass.


    'Woods’ expectation has been that power companies would use the extra revenues to apply an equivalent reduction in charges paid by households that use more power, meaning consumers overall would be no better or worse off on average as a result of the change despite there being winners and losers.

    However, the Government did not seek a guarantee from power companies that tariff changes would cancel out on aggregate.'

    The removal would be 'broadly neutral' …such classic weasel words. They are either neutral or they are not.

  14. Anker 15

    Yes. Thank you Labour and Helen

  15. SPC 16

    The 4th Labour government was probably a bit unnerved by the 2000 winter of discontent – the un-elected neo-liberal regimes objection to moderate reform of the ECA.

  16. newsense 17

    Fair pay doesn’t create a fair life style ifall the increases go to landlords, there are no back yards and too much of a day is spent communing. If there is no access to safe local parks instead of back gardens and economical camp grounds to holiday at our beaches. There are other promises of our parents and grandparents bequeathment that go unaddressed.

    Pay alone doesn’t provide the social compact that the members of this parliament enjoyed. Security and recreation for a day’s work.

    Good job. More to do.

    • SPC 17.1

      Yes and another is to limit the requirement to be available to work shifts to get jobs.

      In former times people would volunteer to work evenings or weekends on top of their main job (if saving to own homes). Variable shift jobs were just a means to get rid of overtime rates – and they had a pernicious effect on community engagement – as to sport etc.

      PS A rent freeze is an obvious move during high inflation.

      • newsense 17.1.1

        There’re so many ways that little cuts here and there add up.

        For example, you could try to out Christian the Nats on working on the Christian holidays and providing penalty rates on Sundays. Because the point of these days is a fixed point where you don’t belong to your job or the commercial cycle. You belong to your family, your home and yourself! They have a lot of members whose professed Christianity does nothing for Kiwis and kiwi families, but a lot for Crefflo Dollar junior. Abortion bans without mental health support. Rules and punishments without improving people’s lives. Business masquerading as holiness.

        8 hours work, 8 hours rest, 8 hours recreation!

      • newsense 17.1.2

        It’s not only the cost of rent, it is the design of the properties, cities and infrastructure.

        How far to the supermarket, how far to the bus stop and train station, can you push a trolley or stroller along the footpaths, are other shopping and cultural amenities easily accessible, do young and old people feel safe on their own, how much additional time is taken in friction to accomplish survival tasks? A 15 minute walk to an amenity is not really good enough for many.

        Let alone is it mouldy, is there enough sun etc etc…

        • SPC

          The Labour-National agreement on urban intensification to 3 storey buildings the worst recent example of a lowering of standards. Doing to urban planning what the building reforms did, unto the consequence leaky homes.

          Instead of building along transport spines, it could occur anywhere – regardless of local facilities etc.

    • weka 17.2

      great comment newsense.

    • newsense 17.3

      *if all


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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Finnish PM to visit New Zealand
    Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, accompanied by Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari and a business delegation will visit New Zealand next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. The two leaders will meet in Auckland. “New Zealand and Finland are natural partners. We share similar approaches ...
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  • New recreational rules to support hāpuku and bass fisheries
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  • Jobs for Nature enabling Mātāuranga Māori
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  • Supporting resilient shipping infrastructure in Vanuatu
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  • Government welcomes High Court ruling on climate case
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  • Government introduces changes to mining Act with stronger environmental focus
    ·         Crown Minerals Act will no longer actively “promote” prospecting, exploration, and mining of Crown-owned minerals ·         Will create more certainty around engagement between industry, iwi and hapū. The Government is proposing changes to modernise the Crown Minerals Act 1991 (CMA) to support more environmentally conscious management of resources, says ...
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