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Thursday, March 12

Nine day fortnight welcomed by Green Party

The Green Party is pleased the Government is committed to funding five hours’ pay at the minimum wage as part of the 'nine day fortnight', but retains some concerns.

"We welcome today's announcement and the speed with which progress is being made, as workers are losing their jobs on a daily basis," Green Party Employment Spokesperson Sue Bradford said today.

"The Greens hope this scheme will mean many more jobs will be kept than would have otherwise been possible, and that workers who face reduced hours will not face such a large drop in weekly income as they would have otherwise."

However, the Green Party does have several ongoing concerns which it hopes the Government will address in the near future, Ms Bradford said.

"We trust that any reduction of hours will not be forced on any employer or group of workers. It is essential that any agreement is organised with the full consent of all parties involved.

"We are also aware that while most of the current three and four-day weeks are being negotiated in the manufacturing sector, retail workers are also suffering a large number of job losses and reduction in hours.

"We welcome assurances in the House today that the scheme will be extended to the retail sector. We also encourage the Government to extend the scheme to smaller workplaces."

Statistics New Zealand figures (from its December 2008 quarterly employment survey) show the retail sector provides one eighth of the employment in New Zealand’s economy.

"The 82,300 fulltime and 75,000 part time workers in this retail sector tend to be very low paid – with an average wage of $16.82 an hour – compared to an average of $24.33 an hour for all industries," Ms Bradford said.

"This means any cut in wages could bite that much deeper.

"How well this scheme is worked out and implemented over the next few weeks is going to be critical for employees and employers alike, and we certainly hope the best results will be achieved.

"We also hope that the loss of the training component from this scheme won’t mean that employers and government will renege on all possible efforts to support staff with training or retraining opportunities despite workplace insecurity."

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