The minister in charge of the Government's flagship industrial relations reform bill is unable to confirm if Fair Pay Agreement legislation will be passed before next year's election.

In fact, Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway was not able to confirm if the legislation would even be introduced to Parliament before the House rises for the 2020 campaign.

"There is still quite a long way to go," he said this morning.

CTU President Richard Wagstaff said that unions would be disappointed not to see the legislation passed into law before the election.

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Speaking at the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) biannual conference this morning, Lees-Galloway told unionists that the Government was "taking the time" to get the legislation right.

But he reiterated how important it was for New Zealand's workforce in preventing a "race to the bottom".

Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) would cover all of the workers in a given sector, setting standards above legal minimums, if made law.

A working group, headed by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, recommended one in 10 workers in a particular sector could trigger the negotiation process as well as there being a public interest test.

That recommendation, among others, was delivered more than nine months ago and the Government is in the process of drafting a FPA law.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday confirmed the Government will soon start a round of consultation on the FPA – Galloway confirmed today that documents will be sent out in "less than a few weeks".

He expected the consultation to be done by Christmas.

After that, the Fair Pay Agreement legislation will be drafted before being introduced to Parliament.

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He said there was still quite a long way to go but that was just the nature of the scale of the legislation.

Lees-Galloway said getting legislation passed before the next election was "entirely dependent on how long it takes to make policy decisions and how long the drafting takes".

Asked if he expected legislation to be introduced before the next election, he again couldn't say.

Ardern had previously said that there would be no more than one or two fair pay agreements in its first term.

Without FPA legislation in place, the Government will be unable to legislate for any at all.

CTU President Richard Wagstaff said he would still like to see a couple of FPAs in place before the election – "the next best thing is everything but one or two in place".

CTU President Richard Wagstaff outside Parliament in 2008.
CTU President Richard Wagstaff outside Parliament in 2008.

That, according to Wagstaff, means legislation that is passed.

"If that doesn't happen, there will be some disappointment on our part."

He said unions are "absolutely pushing to get them in as soon as possible".

Lees-Galloway said consensus around the legislation was still being sought and all three parties in government – Labour and NZ First in coalition and the Greens providing confidence and supply – were working hard to build it.

He denied NZ First had not been slowing the process down.

"It is the nature of coalition government that you probably have a little bit more discussion about things than you do in a single-party government."

Speaking to the CTU conference yesterday, Peters was coy on both his – and NZ First's – position on FPAs.

Asked about the party's position, he said: "I can tell you the answer to your question is part of an ongoing discussion within NZ First and the current government".

"I can't answer you as to what the outcome is at the moment until we see with finality what the details are, and what our agreement finally is."