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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Over half of the wage and salary earners in New Zealand have their wages and conditions of employment determined by methods which are outside the scope of the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1954. The two main groups outside the I. C. and A. Act are Government and agricultural employees.

Government Employees

The Government Railways Act 1949 provides for a Government Railways Industrial Tribunal with power to prescribe salaries and wage rates, hours of work, and other conditions of employment for railway employees.

The Post Office Act 1959 makes provision for a Post Office Staff Tribunal with power to make recommendations to the Postmaster-General who determines wages, salaries, and other conditions of employment for Post Office employees.

The Government Service Tribunal Act 1948 set up a Government Service Tribunal with power to prescribe salaries and wage rates, hours of work, and other conditions of employment for employees of the Public Service.

Certain other groups of Government employees, such as police and armed forces, are provided for separately in the appropriate legislation.

The usual procedure in most fields of Government employment is for negotiations to take place first between the employee organisations and the administrative heads concerned. If agreement is reached, the parties will make a joint approach to the appropriate tribunal or authority for the making of an order embodying the terms agreed upon. Otherwise the claims and counterclaims are referred to the tribunal for hearing and the making of an order.

Historically, the Government has as a general rule followed a policy of keeping Government wages and salaries in line with ruling rates in private enterprise. In recent years, as an aid to this policy, the Labour Department has, from time to time, made sample surveys of ruling rates for selected categories of tradesmen and labourers. (See, for example, Labour and Employment Gazette, August 1964, page 29.)

Agricultural Workers Act of 1962

This Act enables wages and conditions of employment of workers on dairy farms, and in various other classes of agricultural work, to be fixed from time to time by Orders in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour. Originally the Act related specifically to dairy farms, with provision, however, for extension of its provisions to other classes of agricultural workers. Extension orders are now operative in respect of orchard workers; workers on farms and stations used for the commercial production of wool, meat, or grain; workers in market gardens; and workers employed in tobacco growing and tobacco harvesting. The Act and the orders made under it are administered by the Labour Department.

It is usual for representatives of workers' and employers' organisations concerned to enter into direct negotiations with a view to making an agreed recommendation to the Minister of Labour for the making or amendment of an order. If no such agreement is reached it is then open to any of the parties concerned to bring the matter to the Court for hearing so that the Court may make a recommendation.

Waterfront Industry Act of 1953

This Act provides for a Waterfront Industry Tribunal with power to prescribe by order the terms and conditions of employment for waterside workers. There is also provision for the setting up of National Conciliation Committees to conduct conciliation proceedings on applications concerning two or more ports and for Port Conciliation Committees where one port only is affected. The conciliation proceedings may result in an agreed recommendation to the Tribunal regarding the terms and conditions to be embodied in any order it may make. In the absence of such agreement, the Tribunal will hear the parties before determining its order. The committees and Tribunal also deal with disputes. The orders and decisions of the Tribunal are final and binding.

Labour Disputes Investigation Act of 1913

In 1913, following increased industrial strife and a move by some unions to cancel registrations under the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act as a means of freeing themselves to take strike action, the Government enacted the Labour Disputes Investigation Act as a measure to apply to all societies of workers, registered or not, to all their members not bound by an award or industrial agreement, and to the employers of all such workers. Under the terms of the Act, voluntary agreements negotiated between employers and such societies of workers may be filed with a Clerk of Awards and thus made enforceable in the same manner as industrial agreements under the I. C. and A. Act. Strikes and lockouts are illegal and subject to penalties unless the procedures set out in the Labour Disputes Investigation Act are followed. Whenever an industrial dispute arises outside the scope of the I. C. and A. Act, the society of workers concerned may notify the Minister of Labour in writing of the parties to the dispute and the claims made by the society or its members. On receipt of such a notice, the Minister is required to refer the matter to a Conciliation Commissioner who will endeavour to effect a settlement. Failing settlement by the Commissioner, the Minister may at any time set up a Labour Disputes Committee of from one to three representatives from each side who elect some other person to be their chairman. This committee endeavours to reach a settlement and, failing that, is required to submit a report to the Minister setting out either recommendations by the committee or proposals by each side for settlement of the dispute. The Minister must publish these recommendations or proposals. If the dispute is not settled within 14 days of the first notification to the Minister, the Registrar of Industrial Unions is required to conduct a secret ballot of workers affected on the issue of whether a strike should take place or not, or whether the recommendations for settlement, if any, should be accepted. The result of the ballot must be published; a strike is unlawful if it takes place within seven days of publication of the result of the ballot. There is similar provision for taking a ballot of employers on the issue of a lockout.

The Labour Disputes Investigation Act has never been very widely used, the number of agreements filed under it in recent years varying between nine and 28 each year. It is nevertheless a valuable alternative for unions not desiring to accept the obligations of the I. C. and A. Act. Since 1913 ballots have been necessary on nine occasions and none of these has resulted in a strike or lockout.

The Minimum Wage Act of 1945

This Act makes provision for a minimum wage for all workers of 21 years of age and over. There are some minor exceptions such as persons undergoing training in certain circumstances. The amount of the minimum wage is fixed from time to time by Order in Council. The Minimum Wage Order 1964 fixed the following minimum rates:

  • Males – 5s. 6½d. an hour, £2 4s. 4d. a day, £10 16s. 8d. a week;

  • Females – 3s. 8½d. an hour, £1 9s. 8d. a day, £7 4s. 8d. a week.

The Act, which is administered by the Department of Labour, has over-riding force over any other enactment and over awards, industrial agreements, and contracts of service. As the rates fixed under the Minimum Wage Act are generally somewhat lower than the adult minimum rates in awards and industrial agreements and other instruments, the Act is more important as a protection to workers not covered by such awards, etc. The largest group of such workers is comprised of persons performing domestic service on farms and in private homes generally.