OPINION: Employment law changes will cost us local jobs

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New Zealand is a country of small and medium-sized businesses, and that’s particularly true here in South Canterbury.

These businesses drive our economy and provide most of the job opportunities and incomes for our families.

Our region has been performing well in recent times with strong growth and incredibly low unemployment. We all want that to continue, so it’s important we don’t do anything that upsets the apple cart.

The Government recently launched the first wave of its employment law reforms that could do just that. The reforms as proposed will increase risks and costs for small and medium-sized businesses, and that can only hurt jobs and slow our region down.

The changes proposed include the end of the starting-out wage, the removal of 90-day trials for businesses with more than 20 staff (including casual and part-timers), big leaps in the minimum wage, reduced employment flexibility, and 1970s-style standardised wage bargaining.

These changes taken together will mean fewer jobs for Kiwi workers, increases in the cost of living and fewer competitive businesses.

New Zealand has an enviable track record over the last few years for lifting employment and growing wages.

For the last two years an average of more than 10,000 jobs have been created every month.

The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since before the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, and the proportion of people in work is the third-highest in the developed world.

That success, more people off benefits and into work, and increased revenue for the Government means as a country we can afford to do more things.

More for schools, more for hospitals and more to care for senior New Zealanders.

Making it harder for small and medium-sized businesses to hire staff will have the opposite effect.

Ultimately it will cost our economy and mean we can’t afford to do all the things we want to do.

This week, the National Party launched its Protect New Zealand Jobs campaign, aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses better understand the Government’s proposed employment reforms.

South Canterbury is growing strongly, providing opportunities for families and our young people. Let’s not do anything to upset that growth.

Andrew Falloon is the MP for Rangitata