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'We have dreams as well': Protestors highlight impact of FPA repeal on Pacific workers

Merewai Durutalo

A protest over Fair Pay Agreement's being axed has drawn large passionate crowds to ACT's office in Auckland.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Union members have taken to the streets of Auckland to protest the scrapping of the Fair Pay Agreement law.

The new Government is getting rid of the law which would have seen a form of collective bargaining to set agreements for fair pay and conditions in some sectors.

More than a hundred members of different unions were not afraid to be seen and heard outside the office of ACT leader David Seymour in busy Newmarket on Monday.

The protestors carried banners reading "fighting for fair pay" and other slogans, as well as chanting.

Leading the protest was First Union General Secretary Dennis Maga.

Maga says the loss of the Fair Pay Agreements will mean lower wages; disproportionate disadvantage for young people, women, Māori and Pacific; and more Kiwis heading overseas in search of more robust jobs outside of our low-wage economy.

And he says there was no consultation at all, but they would have put their case forward if there was.

He wants Aotearoa to introduce similar legislation to Australia, which has a version of the Fair Pay Agreement, particularly if the government wants workers to stop moving there.

A diverse range of unions, workers, and other supporters were present at the protest, including Pasifika youth.

For Lillynga Feagai and Azleen Haulangi the message was that they want a secure future in the workforce.

“If you read my sign, it says stand up for our rights so, as young workers, we’re promoting ourselves and all the employed,” Feagai says.

Haulangi says she is also supporting people like cleaners, daycare workers, and those who need jobs where they should be paid well.

Union Organiser for ETU Pasifika Fala Haulangi says she works with some of the lowest-paid people in the country — cleaners and security guards.

“Fair Pay Agreements would have benefitted a lot of our Māori and Pasifika workers, mainly women and disabled.

“By doing this we’re going to drive our people further and further into poverty.”

Haulangi says ACT's David Seymour and Brooke van Valden would want the best for their families and is asking why the aspirations would be any different for Māori and Pasifika.

“We want the same goals that they want, that we can invest in our future generation, our kids, our locals to make sure they have a better future as well, just like them, you know, they have dreams, we have dreams as well.”

In a media statement, Minister for Workplace Relations Brooke van Velden says fair pay agreements undermine a flexible job market and the FPA legislation will be gone by Christmas.

“They do not help employees. Instead, they make life harder for business so they’re more hesitant to employ people.

"To increase the wages of workers and ensure lower prices for consumers, there needs to be improved productivity and an environment where business can operate competitively."

She also adds that there will be no impact on the current terms of employment for workers as no fair pay agreements have been finalised to date.

“We are focused on boosting productivity, becoming more competitive, and creating a healthy economy. That’s why we’re preventing more bureaucracy from being piled onto businesses and backing them to grow."

Hero Image: Unions to rally at ACT's office over scrapping of Fair Pay Agreements.

Photo/ PMN/ Candice Ama

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