web analytics

Meal breaks

Written By: - Date published: 1:46 pm, March 26th, 2008 - 13 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags:

I had planned to write something about the business lobby’s moaning over Labour’s plans to restore workers’ rights to meal and rest breaks, but as usual No Right Turn nails it perfectly:

The government’s plan to restore a minimum entitlement for breaks in the workplace has produced the usual reaction: squealing from employer’s groups, with the Hospitality Association warning that it will introduce ‘time police’, while Business NZ claims that it is unnecessary as workers and employers are working it out for themselves.

The former is simply scaremongering – the law will create a minimum entitlement, and there’ll be no compulsion to take it. OTOH, bosses will not be able to force people to work without breaks anymore – a prospect which I can see will be deeply concerning to the Hospitality Association’s penny-pinching members. As for the latter, according to the EPMU lack of proper breaks is one of the biggest complaints they get from non-members – which suggests that many employers aren’t ‘working it out’ to the satisfaction of their members.

This law is fundamentally about two things: fairness and dignity. And it is sad to see that our employers, as represented by their membership organisations, do not believe in those values.

As it happens I had a chat to my aunt last night. She works at Heinz Watties in Hastings and recently her job was contracted out to Allied Workforce, a labour-hire company that exists purely to extract excess profits by screwing down the workforce.

Aside from the bullying, harassment and late pay cheques that Allied has become famous for in the Bay, my aunt and her workmates have recently been forced to work six hour shifts on the production line without a break.

It’s this kind of practice that Business NZ and the Hospitality Association are defending, and while most employers are happy to treat their workers with dignity and respect, once again the business lobby is using its resources to defend the abusive practices of our worst employers.

13 comments on “Meal breaks ”

  1. Patrick 1

    It is absolutely disgraceful, but totally expected, that the Hospitality Association is trying to block these moves.

    While I’ve never had the misfortune to work in Hospitality myself, from talking to friends who do it seems that 6-8 hour shifts without breaks is very very common.

    This is exactly the sort of thing Labour should be standing up for, and I applaud them for these moves.

  2. illuminatedtiger 2

    I’ll never think the same of Heinz Watties again. Sounds like a fucking sweatshop!

  3. Tim 3

    When I worked washing dishes I used to have to work from 9am to 3pm without a break. I also got my first pay cheque two weeks late and didn’t get payslips for a month. The other hospitality job I had I got paid less than the minimum wage. I was talking to my barista the other day and she doesn’t even get a lunch break.

    Hospitality is an industry where workers are treated poorly and HANZ endorses this. Its opposition is based on a fear that its members might actually have to provide breaks. Why would you even belong to HANZ if its advocacy is limited to asinine statements like “No one is allowed to do anything anymore”? The shallowness of that response shows that HANZ has no cogent reason for opposing the legislation.

  4. higherstandard 4

    Tane

    I think you may have misquoted Business NZ they’re quoted as below.

    Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly said employers were in favour of adequate meal and rest breaks and provision for breastfeeding mothers but he had not seen any evidence that required a new law.

    “This is a very uncontroversial matter – in thousands of workplaces across the country employers and employees make sensible agreements in their mutual interests without having
    written rules,” he said.

    Mr O’Reilly welcomed the move to allow shift workers to transfer public holidays but said the laws were over-prescriptive.

    To characterise these comments as Business NZ defending the abusive practices of our worst employers is frankly wrong.

  5. Tane 5

    Yes HS, O’Reilly thinks meal breaks etc are a nice idea if you can get them, but he thinks they should be granted to workers as a privelige, not a right.

    His rhetoric about “mutual agreement” is exactly that, rhetoric, and he knows it. As the post above mine (“boohoo”) notes, the imbalance of power in the employment relationship is such that more often than not “mutual agreement” means “take it or leave it”.

    Unless, of course, you’re in a union and have the power to make arrangements with the boss on a more equal footing.

  6. IrishBill 6

    HS, One would expect Business New Zealand to be aware that many members lack decent breaks. Their claim that “This is a very uncontroversial matter” is thus a disingenuous attempt to discredit the law while trying not to appear to be scrooge. I think you probably realise that however, as you are clearly not a fool and it is particularly transparent spin. What I would like to know is why would you choose to try to defend BNZ’s position?

  7. higherstandard 7

    Tane and Irish Bill

    I belong to a Union of sorts myself (ASMS) working in the Public and Private Sector. Where ever I have worked there has been no issue with staff breaks unless emergencies occur.

    My belief is that the vast amount of employers in NZ treat their employees well and give them reasonable and fair breaks.

    I have taken BNZ’s comments at face value rather than choosing to believe that BNZ would want their members not to treat their staff fairly much as I choose to believe that the employer and employee relationship should be mutually beneficial rather than mutually antagonistic.

    IB I pasted my comment previsouly onto the next post as they were on the very same topic – I appologise if this is contrary to the Standard’s usual procedures.

  8. Tane 8

    HS – senior doctors don’t strike me as the most vulnerable workers so I’m not surprised you haven’t had an issue with breaks. Being a union member chances are you also have minimum break entitlements written into your collective and your employer would know that.

    I agree with you that most employers are reasonable about breaks, that’s certainly been my experience. But whether or not you get breaks shouldn’t rely on whether your boss is in a good mood. It should be a basic work right, set out clearly in black and white and enforceable by law.

    O’Reilly isn’t making a genuine argument here, he’s spinning desperately to defend the bad behaviour of his more unscrupulous members.

  9. higherstandard 9

    Tane

    I guess we’ll just have to disagree on what Business NZ is doing, as in my humble opinion they would want their members to be good employers rather than poor ones.

  10. Tane 10

    HS, I doubt Business NZ wants its members to be bad employers, but it has shown more than once that it is willing to defend the right of bad employers to mistreat their staff.

  11. Tim 11

    I’m not sure about Phil O’Reilly. Why would Business NZ oppose the legislation if it’s not going to affect those employers who already provide breaks? If you support breaks, why oppose laws to enforce them?

    I have to say it’s about time there was legislation for minimum breaks and I’m surprised it has taken Labour so long to introduce it. I can’t understand why Labour has been introducing incomprehensible and largely ineffectual legislation like the Flexible Working Hours Act and some amendments to the Employment Relations Act while this most basic issue has been ignored (although it has done well on the Holidays Act and one or two amendments to the ERA).

    It will be interesting to see what Kate Wilkinson’s position on this is. Probably, “I have no policy and I don’t know what I’m talking about anyway so I’ll just say I support meal breaks but oppose workers and that’s a mutually beneficial solution that will support us going forward in productivity!”

  12. Negotiation simply doesn’t take place within many employment relationships. There needs to be prescriptive legislation to ensure that workers’ human rights are protected. Employers and employees don’t simply “work it out for themeselves”.

    i.e.

    a study by Oxenbride (1999: 227-247) found that up to one third of workers in the Retail and Hospitality industries were covered by standard form IECs involving no negotiation in the contract formation. Similarly in a survey carried out from mid-1995 to 1996 by Ryan (1997: 314), it was found that of 698 workplaces in the Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants industrial sector, only 56 .2 percent had written employment contracts. Even by managers’ own accounts employment contracts, irrespective of whether they are collective or individual are determined by management, and in only 18.2 percent of workplaces did managers describe their contracts as being negotiated, either by individuals or an employee representative (Ryan 1997: 314). In another study of secondary labour market McLaughlin and Rasmussen, (1998: 286) found that just 45 percent of respondents reported negotiating their contract with employers, and only 20 percent of employees said that they were happy with what they had been offered. Further evidence of the increase in managerial prerogative came from a survey carried out by Rasmussen et al., (2000: 54), which found that 56.7 percent of part-time workers indicated there had been no negotiations in the formation of their contracts ……

    In McLaughlin and Rasmussen’s (1998: 288) survey nearly half of the respondents reported that they had no choice about working weekends and evenings while 25 percent said they had a choice sometimes, while 29 percent said they had a choice. One third of respondents reported that the hours they were forced to work had a significantly negative impact on their family life, preventing them from spending enough time with their partners and/or children.

    McLaughlin, C. and Rasmussen, E. (1998) “Freedom of choice’ and flexibility in the retail sector?’, International Journal of Manpower, vol.19, no. 4, pp. 281-292.

  13. Monty 13

    The whole beat up i a desperate attempt by Labour to create a much needed diversion from the real issues affecting NZers such as high interest rates, too much personal tax, increases in te cost of energy prices, the plummeting confidence in the economy and of course the polls that has Labour constantly 25 to 20 points behind.

    This additional cost on employers (usually bad employers) will mena that come the recession (which we are already in the middle of) those workers will be the first to be laid off. I have yet to see an arguement that really justifies this proposal. (is it a bil yet?)

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Major redevelopment of Wainuiomata High School underway
    Work begins today at Wainuiomata High School to ensure buildings and teaching spaces are fit for purpose, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. The Minister joined principal Janette Melrose and board chair Lynda Koia to kick off demolition for the project, which is worth close to $40 million, as the site ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 hours ago
  • New expert group appointed to advise Government on Oranga Tamariki
    A skilled and experienced group of people have been named as the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board by Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis today. The Board will provide independent advice and assurance to the Minister for Children across three key areas of Oranga Tamariki: relationships with families, whānau, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 hours ago
  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    22 hours ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago