KEITH LOCKE (Green)
The Green Party will be voting against the Holidays Amendment Bill. We put in a minority report alongside the Labour Party on this bill because it is a big step backwards for the people of New Zealand. The thing that seems to be lacking is any concern with people’s wellbeing. There is a whole trend in politics today of not only measuring everything by money and GDP, but also looking at the quality of life that people have. One of the things that has been under the Green logo in the past has been the slogan: “Quality of Life”. My Green colleague Kennedy Graham had a bill before Parliament that unfortunately did not get the Government’s support, which was the Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill*. One of the concepts behind that was taking into account the environmental and social factors, the good things in life, rather than just looking at everything in terms of the amount of goods produced and money made. There is a whole history of developing what are called genuine progress indicators or indexes of wellbeing, and in Canada there is a law that has wellbeing as a guideline. All that leads to a concept under this bill of leisure. Leisure is important. As we move forward in this—[
The continuing barrage on that side of the Chamber is not acceptable.
This bill reduces our leisure time, and the progress we have made to get 4 weeks leave and the progress that has been made in other countries that have 4 or 5 weeks leave such as France, where they also have a 35-hour working week. In New Zealand people work on average for more than 40 hours a week, even though 170 years ago Samuel Parnell went on strike for the 8-hour day and the 40-hour week. In some ways we are moving backwards, even though the productivity of our economy has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. The idea that to sell off one of our 4 weeks of holiday is some step forward is completely unacceptable.
: It’s called choice.
: It is not just a question of choice and it should not be a question of choice. People should be paid sufficiently so that they do not sell off the leisure time that the whole of society is moving towards. The question of the sick day is again not a question of choice; it is reducing choice. It is—
Hon Parekura Horomia
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a bit concerned at the interjection made by the member for Tauranga that workers will continue to fork out for beneficiaries. I am not too sure what he was insinuating.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy)
: I am not sure what the member is doing with that as a point of order, because it is not one.
The requirement for a medical certificate for one day off sick is completely unreasonable and impracticable. It is unreasonable because it just makes people sicker if they have to get out of bed and go to the doctor. It makes the people in the doctors’ surgery sicker because they might catch an infection. It encourages people to not even bother with the doctor and instead to go to work when they are sick, to become sicker, and to infect their workmates. It is impractical too because is many cases it is just not possible to get an appointment with a doctor on that particular day, as the Green Party discovered when it did a survey on this question. The other point in the bill about transferring holidays from the traditional ones such as Christmas Day to perhaps another day undermines an essential element of the leisure built into our statutory holidays system so that the whole family can be together on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or at Easter. If we have all sorts of provisions to transfer holidays off those days, we will not have that community or family feeling around agreed quiet days in the year.
I was disappointed that in question time today Kate Wilkinson rejected the idea of Mondayising Anzac Day and Waitangi Day. We already Mondayise Christmas Day and Boxing Day and it is perfectly acceptable to do that. It does not mean that we do not celebrate Christmas on 25 December, but if Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a weekend we have holidays on the following Monday or Tuesday. That is how it could be with Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. I think we should have a vision of a future where we are working less, not more. Unfortunately this bill goes the other way round. It will not lead to advances in workers’ wages. For example, if the workers at one factory producing some form of engineering product are convinced to sell off a week of their holiday and get a bit of a wage increase, and if at another factory producing the same products the workers do not sell off their holiday, I am pretty sure that we will still find that the competition between workers for their labour, and the employers in those two firms, will be in terms of an hourly rate. The hourly rate will equalise between the two as time goes on, but one set of workers would have sold off their annual holiday and the other set would not have. When all of this is tied in with the 90-day provision in the bill, pressure will be exercised over a section of the workforce to have those workers sell off their holidays and to bring sick notes. All the disadvantages of the previous bill we discussed—the 90-day provision—will tend to apply to make workers accept a reduction of their annual holidays, to shift their holidays off the existing statutory holidays, and also to force them, for unreasonable reasons, to go to the doctor for 1 day’s absence. That is not where we should be going. We should be more like countries like France with 5 weeks holiday and 35-hour weeks. The French had big mobilisations to protect their pension system. We should be determined not only to protect what we have but also to advance it, to improve leisure in this society, to be able to share round work, and to have flexible working hours, which is another aspect of quality of life that was in the bill my colleague Sue Kedgley put before this Parliament. Unfortunately that bill is not really being implemented by this present Government. Many submissions were made to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, particularly in relation to employers being able to require a sick note for 1 day’s absence when they can already do that under the law if there is a real reason, like someone taking off 10 consecutive Mondays and having 3 day weekends. Submission after submission said how onerous and impractical the new provisions would be. Surely the Government should listen to what the people say on matters such as this. If we look at the clean, green image of New Zealand, it is an image of a country that it is desirable to come to, not only in terms of its environment but also its relaxed, friendly people and all that sort of thing. We are creating very much the opposite image internationally if we say we are going to, in effect, reduce the holidays people have, and if we are much tighter in relation to them taking time off work when they are sick and all those sorts of things. It is the wrong image from that which we want to portray to the world. Thank you.