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Nine-Day Fortnight Subsidy Isn't Enough, Union Says

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 12 NZPA - The country's biggest trade union says its members are unlikely to accept the Government's nine-day fortnight proposal unless there is more cash on the table.

Under the Job Support Scheme, announced yesterday, employees who take up the option of working a nine-day fortnight instead of being made redundant will get a $62.50 subsidy from the Government to help make up the 10th day's pay.

The scheme starts on March 27 and will be based on voluntary agreements between employers, workers and unions.

Workers who go into it cannot be made redundant.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), representing 45,000 workers, said the Government was offering "a miserable level of subsidy for a day's lost pay".

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little, who was last week elected president of the Labour Party, said his members "simply won't wear that sort of loss" and there would have to be a substantial employer top-up.

"Workers didn't cause this recession and it's not on to expect them to pay the price," he said.

"Unless employers are willing to meet this subsidy with a substantial top-up of their own, it's unlikely to be accepted by workers.

"As far as the EPMU is concerned, this will be a bottom line."

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU), however, appeared to be optimistic about the scheme.

Its president, Helen Kelly, said the CTU had pushed for a higher rate but the scheme formed a basis for workers and employers to negotiate their way out of job losses.

When Prime Minister John Key announced details of the scheme he said it would initially be aimed only at private sector businesses with 110 or more staff.

The $62.50 subsidy represents five hours pay at the $12.50 minimum wage rate.

Mr Key said the scheme should be seen as a last resort, a time-buying strategy for companies facing a fall in demand for their products and a way to avoid weakening their workforces.

There are about 1600 companies employing 580,000 people who would qualify for the scheme.

Mr Key said he understood from the unions that there had been approaches from a number of companies who wanted voluntary agreements with their workers.

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