Thousands of workers in over 900 workplaces around the country took part in a nationwide tea break yesterday to protest proposed government changes to employment law to take away their legal right to a rest or meal break.
CTU secretary Peter Conway said workplaces like milk factories, schools, supermarkets, hospitals, factories, and universities all held ‘Give Us a Break’ tea breaks yesterday.
“Workers got together with their workmates for a tea break at their workplaces. They are outraged at the prospect of losing their tea break.”
Under the current law employers are obliged to give employees a paid 10-minute break for every four hours they work plus a 30-minute meal break if they work more than four hours. Employees can agree when they take these breaks but, if they do not, they will be spread evenly throughout the working day.
The proposed changes mean that where employers believe they cannot reasonably provide breaks (or with an employee’s agreement) then they can make employees work without any meal or rest breaks at all. Where this occurs employers will be required to compensate workers for this (for example with an extra allowance or by letting them go home early).
“Workers understand this law is designed to reduce their pay and attacks even the most basic work rights, like the tea break which is essential for rest, a chance to talk to workmates and important for health and safety,” said Peter Conway.
“They are very worried about how this law will impact them and their families.”
“This event was part of a broad campaign against these changes. Workers are standing up for fair employment laws that encourage collective bargaining as the way to higher wages in productive and safe workplaces, not changes that undermine bargaining and make it even harder for workers to get ahead,” said Peter Conway.