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Urgent Debate Sought On Plight Of Low-Paid Workers

ACT To Seek Urgent Debate On Plight Of Low-Paid Workers

The ACT Party intends to call for an urgent debate on the plight of 48,000 low-paid workers who’ve been denied access to a community services card, when Parliament resumes next week.

ACT leader Richard Prebble said it was outrageous for the government to raise the threshold at which beneficiaries qualified for a card while excluding low-paid workers on the same income.

“Those 48,000 New Zealanders in low-paid jobs deserve to be protected by Parliament, not exploited,” Mr Prebble said.

“The failure of the government to extend the card to people in work means those 48,000 low-income workers would be better off to quit work and go on welfare.”

The consumer price index rose by 4 percent last year but wages increased just 1.6 percent.

“When you realise that politicians and judges got a lot more, it follows that many workers received no wage increase at all. At a time when food prices are rising even more rapidly, the position of people in work is deteriorating,” he said.

“In contrast, those on welfare received a 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment and now for beneficiaries the community services card has also been adjusted in line with inflation."

Mr Prebble said when it was realised that most state house tenants had received a reduction in their rents, and most were on benefits, the position of beneficiaries relative to workers had improved even more.

“The failure of the government to adjust the community services card threshold for workers is a breach of an undertaking that people in work should always be better off than those on a benefit,” he said.

The effect of the government’s policies could already be seen in long-term unemployment figures. While overall unemployment had fallen during the past 12 months, answers to Parliamentary questions by ACT’s Muriel Newman had shown a rise in long-term unemployment by 19 percent, to 105,000.

Mr Prebble said many of the 48,000 low-paid workers denied access to a community services card had children, and the government was denying them access to cheaper medical costs.

The Prime Minister’s comment that those workers were no worse off, showed how much Helen Clark was out-of-touch with the low-income people she claimed to represent, he said.

“Ms Clark needs to visit a supermarket and see how much prices have increased.”


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