Govt: Subsidies for workers on nine-day fortnight possible

Subsidies for some workers who move to a nine-day working fortnight remain a possibility, the Government said today.

Ministers met with business and union leaders today to discuss the idea, which came out of last week's Job Summit in Auckland.

It was an "excellent meeting" with wide agreement on a number of principles and the parameters, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Education Minister Anne Tolley said.

Asked if a wage subsidy for workers was being considered, Ms Bennett said: "Yes it is on the table. But we have a bit of homework to do and some decisions to make".

No decisions had been made on how wide the nine-day policy might go or how it might be implemented.

When the idea was first raised it seemed that the Government was focusing on using the 10th day in certain industries and subsidising training for those workers.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, CTU president Helen Kelly, Business NZ and the Industry Training Federation representatives attended today's meeting.

Ms Kelly said after the Jobs Summit that subsidising the lost day's pay was vital.

"Without it, it's very unlikely that workers will be able to participate in it because they just won't be able to afford to lose a whole day's pay," she said.

Finance Minister Bill English said this week it would be too expensive for the Government to cover lost wages.

"Some people are expecting wage subsidies, some people are expecting training subsidies, some people are expecting it to apply to everybody. That's probably unreal," he told reporters.

After today's meeting Ms Bennett said ministers wanted to have an open discussion on the issue.

Ministers had not gone into the meeting saying the idea would not happen.

Ms Tolley said the principle was about keeping people in jobs and keep businesses open if "practically possible".

Another meeting would be held next week.

- NZPA

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