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Solveable Air Flights Dispute Use To Attack Male Breaks Law

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Trevor Mallard
Trevor Mallard

Wellington, Sept 3 NZPA - An industrial dispute that could have easily been sorted out is being used an excuse to change laws allowing workers to take meal breaks, Labour MP Trevor Mallard said today.

Yesterday Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced the law would be changed because it would lead to disruptions in workplaces, such as nine domestic flights a week being cancelled.

Previously, there were no statutory requirements for meal and rest breaks, although entitlements were in most collective agreements.

An amendment bill was passed last year by the previous Labour government, which set guidelines for break requirements.

Ms Wilkinson said the law was too prescriptive and it would be changed to increase flexibility around breaks.

The current legislation meant regional airport control towers were being closed down while workers took breaks, she said.

The Airline Pilots Association had been "unwilling to continue the flexible breaks system".

If she did not act it "would result in the cancellation of at least nine regional return flights a week and the risk of further scheduled disruptions", Ms Wilkinson said.

Association chief executive Rick Mirkin said the union had been working with airport authorities to implement the legislation which required sole workers at five airports to take a half hour lunch break and two ten minute breaks.

It would have been possible to implement this without disrupting any flights until the Civil Aviation Authority had deemed it was necessary for the breaks to be held at all the airports at the same time.

This had led to the potential disruption of flights, not stubbornness on the part of air controllers, he said.

Mr Mirkin said he understood there had been intense lobbying on the issue from many employers and it was no surprise that National was trying to roll back prescriptive legislation brought into benefit workers.

Ms Wilkinson said pharmacies, schools, meatworks and sole attendant operations had also raised concerns about the law, she said.

"Parliament certainly didn't intend for this law to create more problems than it solved.

"It would appear that what was once common sense in the past is no longer common sense under this legislation," Ms Wilkinson said.

Mr Mallard said the problem Ms Wilkinson referred to could have been easily solved and accused her of using the issue as an excuse.

"Instead of considering the issue properly, Ms Wilkinson's reflex has been to remove the rights of these workers to a break, and while she's at it using it as an excuse to deny breaks to other sole charge workers," Mr Mallard said.

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