Amidst all the quake related news yesterday it would have been easy to miss this piece:
Confusion over worker pay after quake
Wellington CBD workers have been urged to defy bosses ordering them into the office today against Civil Defence warnings.
At least one person claims to have refused a request from their manager to travel into work in the quake-rattled CBD this morning.
The woman, who declined to be named, said her office was in a known quake-prone building in the city but her manager told her that customers came first.”My own safety comes first,” was her response.
That’s the only sensible response. Any employer applying pressure on Wellington workers to work in unsafe conditions – obviously including the observation of all official warnings – any such employer should be named and shamed.
But while workers have been told to stay away there is disagreement over exactly where they stand with their employer in an emergency.
The Council of Trade Unions argues workers should stay home in line with Civil Defence advice and their employer is obligated to pay them like any other day.
However the Employers and Manufacturers Association disagrees, claiming that while safety comes first, employers do not legally have to pay workers who do not work, even in the wake of a natural disaster.
Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway said … ”In these situations, 99.5 per cent of employers do pay and look after their employees but we do get the odd one that doesn’t.”
Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesman Gilbert Peterson said … ”Technically employers don’t have to pay but that would be pretty unreasonable. If authorities are saying stay away then employers do need to consider that.”
Smaller / non-unionised workforces are most at risk, and it would be helpful to have a statement from government urging employers to do the right thing.