Richard McIntyre, head of Federated Farmers sharemilkers section, was right on the money when he described plans to introduce the Farm Debt Mediation Bill as long overdue.
Lewis told the Feds dairy council meeting in New Plymouth last week that the compulsory nature of the proposed fair pay agreements and the risk of industrial action and productivity loss are key concerns for the industry.
It would be compulsory for business to accept the new wage rate once it was negotiated for that position, Lewis told about 40 people at the two-day meeting.
“What if staff strike during calving; who would look after the cows?” he asked.
“Sounds outrageous? Staff would never strike during the peak part of the season.... That’s how unions hold power over the employers. Just ask our dairy companies how the unions have used this in the past.”
The Government’s fair pay working group, led by former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger, has made 46 recommendations to the Government which it says will help end the ‘race to the bottom’ in wages.
It has also reported on the design of a fair pay agreement system which it says would set minimum standards for industries or occupations.
The Minister of Workplace Relations, Iain Lees-Galloway, is now considering the group’s recommendations, which address the initiation of bargaining, coverage of the agreements, their scope and the bargaining process for negotiations.
One recommendation, on collective bargaining, suggests workers should be able to initiate a fair pay-agreement bargaining process if they can meet a minimum threshold of 1000 people, or 10% of workers in the nominated sector or occupation, whichever is lower.
Lewis says dairy farmers are all for fair pay.
“Also, we promote career progression, where you start at the bottom of the ladder, you increase your skills and knowledge, and work your way up through the industry, getting rewarded with more pay and a better job title along with responsibility,” he says.
“The good staff make it to sharemilker or farm manager roles and then have an eye on land ownership.”