Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Living Wage Movement

The Living Wage Movement

In a land of milk and honey, paradoxically, the ability for families to meet their basic needs is becoming increasingly difficult. The long-held notion that New Zealand is a classless society where if you work hard, you can become anything, is quickly being disassembled. Rogernomics, capitalism and right wing politics have fostered division, contributing to the establishment of an ever-growing class of have-nots. Living Wage Aotearoa co-ordinator Annie Newman says the question that they want to pose to people is, “what kind of a community do they want to live in?” The Living Wage Movement is about changing communities- a healthy community is socially and fiscally beneficial for all.

The Living Wage Movement is an international demonstration which aims to connect community and faith based groups to address poverty and inequality. The Living Wage Movement Aotearoa shares the common goal of achieving a living wage for New Zealanders. This is recognised as a necessary step in reducing poverty and inequality. The minimum living wage of $18.40 per hour before tax was set with reference to a household construct of two adults and two children, where one adult works 20 hours per week and the other works 40 hours. Realistically, this figure varies over the country, and this is a basic minimum for a family to function and participate in their community. This figure is not subject to fluctuations of rent or transport costs, and Newman says that these issues “need to be addressed by the government”.

The effects of low pay, and the intensification of inequality, are intrinsically tied to New Zealand’s poor placement in international statistics on poverty and inequality. Despite one of National’s first term policies in 2011 being to close the income and standard of living gap between New Zealand and Australia, New Zealand ranks 23rd out of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Development. Staggeringly, one in six children are living in poverty. But these are not the children of ‘dole bludgers'; 40% of these children are coming from households where one or more parent is in paid work or is self employed. Newman asks, “Where are the people who are earning below that line getting money to survive? Loan sharks? Family members?”

The struggle of families to make ends meet is being recognised by big businesses, whose acts of generosity tend to distract from the fundamental problem. An example of this is the Fonterra milk-in-school’s programme. Newman says, “feeding kids at school is a bottom of the cliff mentality. We need to challenge the structures that lead to poverty”.

In 2010 alone the richest 150 people grew their wealth by 20% while wages moved by less than 2%. The top 1% of earners have more wealth than the bottom 60%. The distance between the rich and the poor is increasing at one of the fastest rates for countries in the OECD, yet wages are not shifting (and have not shifted in a long time) to meet the increased cost of living.

Beyond the compelling statistical information, Newman says that a catalyst of the Living Wage movement is that in the current economic climate, people are desperate. Even charities are struggling to provide for the growing group of needy, she says “People are desperate. If we don’t think about how we structure wages we are never going to get out of poverty, nor give people a sense of dignity.”

The growth of the ‘working poor’ is fundamentally tied to a lack of access to education. The ability to take on debt via a student loan is becoming a luxury for a privileged few, as the choices young people can make after school are limited to those that can bring in money immediately. Newman says that “there is nothing sitting behind these families.” Therefore, school leavers are more inclined to enter the work force at entry level over continuing education, or enter industries that provide paid training, such as the trades or the police force.

Currently, the middle class bear the brunt of taxes, and are therefore subsidising the damaging effects of low pay on the community. A grassroots response to growing inequality is manifesting itself in businesses adopting a Living Wage policy. These include North East Valley Normal School in Dunedin and Tonzu, a family run Tofu business in Henderson. Tonzu has committed to providing a living wage for all it’s staff, and says it will cost $600 per week to lift everyone to $18.40 per hour. Tonzu says that they will find the money by cutting wastage and other costs.

Research shows that businesses who pay their staff more save money on training and induction processes, as well as notice a reduction of staff turnover, and absenteeism.

Since David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson have declared their support for the Living Wage, the movement is becoming a defining and dividing factor in political discussion.

For more information on the Living Wage NZ movement visit www.livingwagenz.org.nz

********

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Gaza’s Resistance Will Not Be Crushed

On the 13th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, stories of entire families collectively pulverized, women and children keenly targeted by Israeli soldiers saturate the media. Until now, 430 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and ... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Anderson: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic? The Labour Party And MANA

Early in July this year, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made headlines by apologising for being a man. Stoked by capitalist media sensation, Prime Minister John Key responded that “not all men” abuse women. More>>

Shobha Shukla: Break The Silos: Drug Use, HIV, HCV, TB, Laws And Funding

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health ... More>>

ALSO:

Fiona Gordon: Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.” More>>

Faisal Al-Asaad: Gaza: McCully’s Calls For Restraint On Both Sides Is Side-Taking Itself

Since June 12th, the world’s attention has been squarely focused on the events unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and the occupied territories. The disappearance of three Israeli youths who were later found dead prompted a flurry of condemnations ... More>>

ALSO:

Tania Billingsley: Demand For Accountability On Sexual Assault

Since my assault I feel that people have been assuming that my idea of justice is to have Rizalman found guilty in a New Zealand court. While it is an important part of justice being done, my main reason for wanting this is not for my own sense of ... More>>

Leslie Bravery: Hold The Perpetrator To Account, Not The Victim!

In a 4 July 2014 statement to Scoop Independent News, on the violent deaths of four young people in the Israeli Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the following comments: 'The recent killing ... More>>

ALSO:

Santon Tekege: Investigative Report Into Oil Palm In Nabire Regency, Papua

Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru1. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news