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Union calls sick leave plan 'kick in the guts' for struggling part-timers

Council of Trades Union spokesperson Rachel Mackintosh says reducing workers' entitlements could hurt Pacific families.

Vaimaila Leatinu'u
Aui'a Vaimaila Leatinu'u
07 June 2024, 10:51am
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A union spokesperson has called the government's plan to change the Holidays Act 2023 a "kick in the guts" for workers, especially already struggling part-timers.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Brooke van Velden announced plans to change the Holidays Act 2003, which she called a frustrating law, that's especially tough on small businesses.

In Velden's press release the changes, within the exposure draft, could see annual leave move from an entitlement system to an accrual system, alongside sick leave being pro-rated for part-time workers.

Brooke van Velden. Photo/ACT Party

Speaking to William Terite on Pacific Mornings, Council of Trades Union spokesperson Rachel Mackintosh said the proposed changes would negatively impact people who "already suffer disproportionately from inequality in society".

"Part-time workers are in the majority women, young people, often disabled and often Māori and Pasifika," Mackintosh said.


"People in those categories already tend to be on the rough end of life and to seek to reduce their entitlement just seems to be a kick in the guts.

"Reducing what working people are entitled to is always bad for working people."

She adds that part-time workers are generally paid less, actually receive less sick leave than full-time workers and that the current entitlements protect part-timers from the hard choice of losing pay or turning up to work sick.

Watch the full interview via 531pi's FB below:

Broken pre-election promise and a history of profit over people

The change has received some support in light of Velden's statement that it would simplify payroll processes and save money for small businesses but it has also received pushback.

Labour's Carmel Sepuloni called out Prime Minister Christopher Luxon for breaking his pre-election promise that sick leave provisions wouldn't be reduced.

She also said the move contradicts Minister of Finance Nicola Willis's post-budget speech, where Willis said "the parties in this coalition government are the parties of the worker".

Mackintosh shares Sepuloni's sentiments as she described the proposed change as a "betrayal" on Luxon's end and that the move favours business over worker's rights.

She recalled the government's axing of fair pay agreements just before Christmas, which RNZ reported would shave off $10,000 a year to bus drivers' salaries.

Mackintosh said those agreements would have lifted wages and conditions for underpaid and insecure workers, which includes cleaners, security guards, supermarket workers and bus drivers.


She adds that the government reinstated, within the same month of the fair pay axing, the 90-day trials which allow employers to dismiss a new employee within their first 90 days, where said employee cannot challenge it as unjustified or unfair.

"In addition to that, there's the attacks on Te Tiriti. So, there's been so many things that this government has done that increase inequality, and advantage the already advantaged which are people running businesses and for-profit organisations."

'A false economy': Mackintosh on doubling sick leave being bad for business

Mackintosh also said that worker’s rights should not be compromised to achieve Velden’s desire of businesses thriving as "the reason they thrive is because of people doing the work which generally are employees and workers".

"There is no reason that a business should thrive at the expense of a miserable life for the people providing the work."

She also said the businesses that Velden has heard from that are struggling with the previous government's doubling of sick leave entitlements should review their business operations.

"Do they need to employ more staff? Every time a worker's right is advanced the employer that needs to accommodate that needs to make adjustments.

"I think it's a false economy to deny people sick leave because they will show up sick because they need money.

"Then everybody gets sick and either people work through sickness and not being so productive or a whole lot of extra people are off sick later.

"I appreciate that businesses have to make adjustments and that does happen when you improve the lives of workers."