Last week, New Zealand passed a law that will transform the lives of working people.
Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) will allow industries and occupations to come together to argue for sector-wide standards on pay, training, and health and safety. As a fast-food worker, I couldn’t be more excited about what Fair Pay Agreements will do for my industry.
To me, an FPA means I will be able to raise my standard of living. Despite working in a supervisor role, I am currently boarding in a cabin with a family friend.
For my workmates, who work under the supervisor position, I have no idea how they can afford to live. An FPA would mean they would not have to choose between affording food or affording power.
For me, one of the biggest benefits of a Fair Pay Agreement is around staffing, and health and safety.
In my role as supervisor, I’ve had to run many shifts where I was not first-aid qualified. This wouldn’t be an issue when there is another supervisor on site, who is qualified. But in some situations, it has just been me on the floor for up to four hours.
During this time, I would be responsible for between 8-15 employees, as well as any customer on-site. If an incident occurred during one of these shifts, I would not have been able to handle the situation safely and effectively. To me, this is a significant health and safety issue.
These are the sort of issues I’d like to see covered in a hospitality FPA. Under an FPA, a policy could be developed which prohibits operations under these circumstances. This would ensure that the safety of staff and customers is put first.
Our customers deserve to buy food and eat in a place with high safety standards.
We all know that wages are going to be a discussion point for Fair Pay Agreements. Wages are always a discussion point for employees, especially when during a cost-of-living crisis they are struggling to survive while working full-time.
A growing body of evidence shows that when wages are raised, there is much less staff turnover and fewer labour shortages.
I believe that with an FPA, any workplace offering a livable wage will not struggle to find employment. There will be no labour shortage for these businesses as their employees have a guarantee of surviving week-to-week.
The benefits of FPAs also extend to employers. The terms are set on both sides. FPAs have the ability to make a business run more effectively, with less turnover and staffing issues, greater working conditions, and a bigger emphasis on health and safety.
It’s important that businesses and employers understand that I love my job, and that I want to see the business thrive as much as they do.
The problem is, there is no way for employees to communicate with their employers collectively and effectively. FPAs will provide a framework for these future discussions and ensure everyone has a seat at the table. Working people are united in the belief that this framework is sorely needed to ensure the wellbeing of businesses.
Aside from benefits within the workplace, FPAs can help me to earn what I am worth. This would finally enable me to move out of the cabin and into my own place.
Many fast-food workers earn poverty wages. None of us can budget ourselves out of that reality. An FPA is the best chance we have for fast-food workers to make a livable income and make the industry a tenable career choice.
Adam Stephenson is a 20-year-old fast-food worker who lives in Christchurch