Workplace Relations Minister accepts some Kiwi businesses will not survive employment law changes

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says New Zealand needs a high-skill, high-wage economy and accepts that some businesses will not survive some of its policy changes.

Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway insists the government’s impending employment law changes won’t hamper strong Kiwi businesses. Source: Q+A

Speaking on TVNZ 1's Q+A this morning, Mr Lees-Galloway told Corin Dann he wanted to see union membership among workers increase, but the government would not opt for compulsory membership in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

"The evidence is very, very strong from around the world that where industries have high union density, where people are covered by collective agreements, their wages rise much faster than the rate of inflation," said Mr Lees-Galloway.

He accepted that some businesses would not be able to operate under its plans and he said the change would be implemented with enough time for businesses to choose whether they could continue.

"Operating in a global market means that businesses need to be resilient. They need to be able to work with the different market forces," he said.

"What we as a government have to do is make sure there is an environment in which new businesses can develop; new jobs can be created; and as thing change for people, new opportunities become available for them."

Mr Lees-Galloway also argued that planned changes to the minimum wage in New Zealand should not be a detriment to strong Kiwi businesses, and if they are then the businesses aren't resilient enough.

"If a small change to the minimum wage is going to be that detrimental to them then they don't sound resilient," Iain Lees-Galloway said.

"What we have to do is signal to businesses, as we have done, what our plans are for the minimum wage and for our other industrial law changes."

National spokesperson for workplace relations Scott Simpson issued a statement in response to Mr Lees-Galloway's comments on Q+A today.

"Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees Galloway’s gob-smacking high-handed attitude to small and medium sized Kiwi businesses on TVNZ’s Q&A this morning will do nothing to boost sagging business confidence or employment and wage growth," Mr Simpson said.

"It's the height of arrogance to say that Kiwi businesses don’t know what they are doing if they struggle to cope with some of the highest minimum pay rates in the world. Mr Lees Galloway writes them off by saying businesses 'come and go'."

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill is before Parliamentary Select Committee.