Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Labour reaffirms support for unions' agenda

Labour leader David Cunliffe and Prime Minister John Key. Photos / Marty Melville/Mark Mitchell
Labour leader David Cunliffe and Prime Minister John Key. Photos / Marty Melville/Mark Mitchell

A Labour Government would "turn back the tide'' of National's "anti worker'' employment legislation, Leader David Cunliffe told the Combined Trade Unions' conference in Wellington today.

In his opening remarks to the conference, Mr Cunliffe told the meeting: "I want to reaffirm I'm here as part of the labour movement''.

Mr Cunliffe, who received strong support from unions during the recent leadership contest, underlined the commitments he made while campaigning for the job.

That included raising the minimum wage immediately to $15 an hour if Labour was elected next year, supporting the "Living Wage'' campaign, putting it in place immediately for public sector workers, and extending paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks.

Mr Cunliffe also pledged to "scrap National's unfair employment law changes in the first 100 days''.

He took aim at the "fire at will'' legislation, "attacks on collective bargaining'', the undermining of health and safety, and moves "taking away smoko breaks''.

"The Prime Minister's attacks on workers will be gone by lunchtime.''

He promised "a red Labour Party'' rather than a "pale blue'' one.

"We will build a better economy and make sure workers get a fair share of the benefits.''

Mr Cunliffe later told reporters Labour would look at putting in place the living wage for state sector workers in a Labour Government's first Budget.

"We would have to confirm that when we see the financials on taking office but that's our plan."

"Based on the preliminary costings we've done we think that's affordable. We will be working on that within a responsible fiscal package.

"Frankly there are only a limited number of civil servants who are currently below the living wage which is why it is an affordable commitment to make at this point."

Mr Cunliffe said the extension of paid parental leave was earmarked for implementation in the first term of new Labour Government, "but we don't know exactly what the state of the books is going to be yet and we're having to balance that with the need to be fiscally responsible which we will be."

Mr Cunliffe said the CTU were a very important core audience for Labour and he welcomed the opportunity "to underline our primary campaign commitments and to reaffirm them as Leader of the Labour Party and to say we are going to do exactly what we said we were going to do".

During his speech, Mr Cunliffe called on the audience of about 150 to help mobilise the "missing million" who did not vote at the last election.

He later said "there is I believe a mood change on in New Zealand".

"I see it every day when I'm out in the regions where people are coming up and asking, almost begging us to get rid of the current Government and bring a sense of fairness to workplaces. I think with good organisation and with clarity of purpose a lot of the people that couldn't be bothered voting last time will sure as heck be bothered next time."

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 23 Jul 2014 05:29:30 Processing Time: 472ms