National takes swipe at govt for strike increase

By Moana Makapelu Lee

National leader Simon Bridges is taking a swipe at the government following news that more than 4,000 Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Inland Revenue Department staff have voted to strike next month. 

Bridges says there's been more strikes in the past nine months than the previous nine years with an estimated 32,000 workers involved in or signalling their intentions to strike, compared to the 27,000 workers that took strike action under National.

"This and the strikes and the unrest that we're seeing leaves a huge amount of uncertainty, which means actually businesses find it very difficult to employ extra staff, it means a slowing of the economy and a real decrease in business confidence that we are seeing over time."

More than 4,000 staff members at IRD and MBIE have voted to strike after frustrations surrounding IRD's Business Transformation Programme which will see one in three staff let go by 2021, as well concerns around increased manual labour to implement the Best Start tax credit by July 1 to give lower-income families an extra $60 a week for each child. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says negotiations are underway.

"That's a decision that they've made at IRD and if you think about it the actual number of babies being born in that period isn't that high so we've been able to manage those applications and we've been given an absolute assurance by IRD that they'll be able to do that."

Nurses and healthcare workers have also signalled a 24-hour strike on July 5.  Bridges says industrial strike numbers could increase by more than 80,000 in the year alone.

"They know that prior to the election they were raising expectations by Labour particularly, by other parties as well and now the union - they paid the piper and they want to play the tune.  They want to see their payback."

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters gave his own interpretation during Monday’s post-cabinet conference on why the government had seen an increase of strike action under the coalition.  

“I suppose you tend to go to a bus stop where a bus does come by, so therefore they're making requests to us, unlike the previous government, you'd go to the bus stop and it wouldn't turn up at all.”

IRD and MBIE strikes will take place on July 9 and 23.