Unions urge Labour against making changes to flagship employment reform after NZ First calls bill a 'work in progress'

Unions are urging Labour to resist making any late changes to its flagship employment law reform at the request of its coalition partner.

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They want the government to resist pressure to make any late changes. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand First this week said the employment legislation currently making its way through Parliament is a "work in progress", prompting fears the party will seek to water down aspects of the reforms.

New Zealand Council of Unions (NZCTU) president Richard Wagstaff said, "the Prime Minister understands well that these are very important issues for working people's and unions".

While employment reforms aimed at bolstering the wage bargaining power of Kiwi workers have been through Cabinet, Labour's coalition partner New Zealand First this week signalled it may seek late changes to the legislation.

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters said, "it's a work in progress, yes. Will that work in progress result in the bill being passed in parliament? Yes".

Mr Wagstaff, however, says the NZCTU is "disappointed", saying they believed the bill was a Cabinet decision.

Q+A host Corin Dann says NZ First appears to be concerned over stronger collective bargaining provisions for multi-employer pay agreements, known as mecas, and whether they will take regional differences in pay into consideration.

BusinessNZ's Kirk Hope said, "if you have an Auckland employer dominating those pay rates, it will be hard for those small businesses in the regions to be competitive".

However, business lobby groups say the collective bargaining reforms in the bill go too far, and they welcome New Zealand First's stance.

"I'm sure they're getting the message from businesses all over the country that some of these provisions are going to hurt them and if they can do anything about it, I think business would be grateful," Mr Hope said.

But Mr Wagstaff says NZ First "needs to remember the people who put them in power".

"It's not just the votes of big business, it's the votes of freezing workers – it's the votes of working people."