MP's gag attempt draws Labour ire

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 13:29 29/11/2012

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Labour is considering lodging a complaint about National MP David Bennett's attempts to gag a unionist during heated submissions on the Government's plans to introduce a youth wage.

Tensions ran high during the first hearings today into the Government's bill which would establish a ''starting out'' wage of 80 per cent of the minimum wage, or $10.80 an hour.

It would apply to 16 and 17-year-olds, as well as 18 and 19-year-olds for six months.

First Union general secretary Robert Reid told the transport and industrial relations select committee that National MPs had revolted against attempts by former prime minister Robert Muldoon to introduce a youth rate in the 1980s.

Bennett, the committee chair, objected to the ''history lesson''.

''Just give us the submission. Stick to the Bill.''

Labour MP Phil Twyford told Bennett should be ''more accommodating'' and threatened a revolt on the committee.

''David, if you carry on like that there is going to be a dispute and non-cooperation, so I suggest you think carefully.''

Bennett also objected to attempts by Reid to mention a settlement between the union and the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) over a contract for the laundry services at Nelson Hospital by Taylor Spotless.

Bennett cautioned him, saying: ''You might want to be careful about what you say around this and I would caution you against saying that.''

Reid said he took the caution on board but continued anyway.

Spotless now wanted to include compulsory youth rates for every young person on the collective contract, he said.

''And that is a real problem.''

Twyford later said Reid's comments were ''perfectly legitimate'' and ''entirely relevant'' to the discussion.

''David Bennett had no place shutting him down like he did.''

Bennett's behaviour was partisan and inappropriate for a committee chair, he said.

Labour was considering complaining about his actions.

First Union was been given seven minutes for its submissions before Bennett cut them off in the middle of questioning by the Opposition. An earlier submission by the EMA took 22 minutes.

Reid also told the committee youth rates would result in ''unscrupulous employers'' hiring young staff because they were cheaper.

They would impact on students who would have to work longer hours to support themselves and have less time to study, he said.

However, the EMA said youth rates would ''tip the balance'' so employers gave young people a chance.

Spokesman David Lowe said employers wouldn't keep good workers on youth wages.

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''You find a good person and you want them to stay so this minimum wage is just a way of getting them in the door.''

However, he conceded employers weren't ''beating down the door'' of the association to call for youth rates.

- Stuff

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