3. Peters agrees unions pushing Labour hard

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has suggested striking workers are taking advantage of the current Government. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

Winston Peters has suggested there is some truth to the idea that unions are testing their luck as they push the Government for better wages. Thomas Coughlan reports.

“You go to a bus stop when a bus starts to come by,” said the Acting Prime Minister when asked if the “empathetic” character of the current Government was encouraging unions to push for better wage offers.

“It’s not like the previous Government where you’d go to the bus stop and the bus wouldn’t turn up at all,” he said at the regular post-Cabinet news conference on Monday.

Peters was responding to the news that workers from MBIE and Inland Revenue had voted “overwhelmingly” to strike for two-hour periods on 9 July and 23 July.

Members of the public service union complain of pay increases below the cost of living and poor resourcing.

"Spending millions on contractors while denying our members a cost of living pay increase is poor practice, and it’s not in the spirit of the new Government’s expectations for the public sector,” said PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.

The PSA said IRD worker’s were concerned at a lack of preparedness to implement the Government’s Best Start tax credit, which will commence on 1 July.

"IRD’s system is unable to process the Best Start tax credit, which should give lower income families an extra $60 a week for each child,” said PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk.

"It starts on 1 July, and members are told they will have to process this manually, drastically increasing their workload,” she said.

Peters said he was aware of the technical problems with the Best Start payments.

"Sometimes you just have to make a stretch when the environment in which you’re operating and which you’ve inherited is not ready and in this case whatever contingencies are required the Government will be attending to with the greatest speed we can,” Peters said.

He also said he believed that public sector workers were underpaid compared to private sector workers.

“We’re not unsympathetic to demands being made upon us, we just want those people who are making those demands to understand we can’t fix everything in the space, in terms of getting ready for a Budget, of six months,” Peters said.

Strikes mount up

The news that more than 4000 MBIE and IRD workers will strike has come at a difficult time for the Government as it faces industrial issues on a number of fronts.

Todays news came as nurses continued negotiations with district health boards after rejecting a $550 million wage offer last week. If those negotiations fail, they will strike for 24 hours, just four days before the first day of MBIE and IRD action.

National leader Simon Bridges said that there had been more industrial unrest since the Labour-led Government took office than during the entire lifetime of its National-led predecessor.

“After less than nine months of this Government 32,000 workers have been involved in industrial action, or signalled their intention to be – compared to just over 27,000 that undertook strike action in the entire nine years of the previous Government,” Bridges said.