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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Labour Department

Labour Department

The New Zealand Department of Labour was inaugurated in June, 1891, to collect labour statistics and, by providing information and transport to workers, to cancel the unequal demand for labour in different parts of the country In the 48 years of its existence, the Department has acquired control of many other branches of social legislation, and its main duties now are to administer the majority of the labour laws; to provide protection for the general public by inspections of weights and measures, and footwear; and by the administration of the Fair Rents Act.

The labour laws under the control of the Department are many and varied. Hours, wages, sanitation and other conditions for workers in factories, shops and offices are contained in the Factories Act and Shops and Offices Act, and upon the] basic provisions of these Acts may be built the superstructure provided by the Indus  trial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Under this Act workers and employers can form themselves into industrial unions and associations registered under the Act, and by submitting disputes to Conciliation Councils and, if necessary, the Court of Arbitration, or by voluntary agreement among the parties, enforceable awards and agreements governing working conditions may be obtained. For workers who do not choose to register under this Act, industrial agreements under the Labour Disputes Investiga  tion Act are possible, the essence of both these Acts being that points of difference between employer and employee are to be settled without recourse to strikes and lockouts. By the Agricultural Workers' Act, 1936, wages, holidays, and other conditions for workers on dairy-farms are provided, and this Act has since been extended, with the necessary modifications to apply to other types of farms. Sharemilkers are protected by a separate Act. The Department's inspectors carry out regular supervision of all these provisions, and also inspect the accommodation of shearers and agricultural workers.

An important duty is that, under the Apprentices' Act, 1923, Departmental officers act as District Registrars of Apprentices, and in many cases as secretaries to the various Apprenticeship Committees, and inspections are made to see that the Apprenticeship Orders and contracts are observed. Both the Wages Protection and Contractors' Liens Act, providing for regular payment of wages in cash or approved cheque and for the safeguarding of wages payable from contract moneys, and the Workers' Compensation Act, providing for compensation for death or injury to workers in the course of their employment, are also administered by the Department.

Departmental inspectors supervise the safety of workers on scaffolds or in excavations, and the old abuses in private servants' registry offices have been avoided by inspection and registration.

Service to the outside public is rendered by inspection of weights and measures, and of footwear purporting to be made of leather. Considerable work is entailed representing tenants in proceedings under the Fair Rents Act, which provides, among other protections, a basis for the assessment of reasonable rentals.