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Minimum wage rise far too little

21 March 2005

Minimum wage rise far too little

While today’s rise in the minimum wage is welcome, it’s not nearly enough for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders struggling to make ends meet, the Green Party says.

“The minimum wage should be lifted to $12 an hour for all workers,” said Green Employment Spokesperson Sue Bradford. “Hundreds of thousands of workers are still being expected to survive, and in many cases support their families, on wages that are well under 50 percent of the average wage.

“Raising the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour is a key step that our country needs to take to help lift a generation of children out of poverty. I call on the Government to have the courage of its convictions and take a somewhat bolder step than the one which took effect today.

“Raising wages would also return people’s dignity. For a variety of reasons, we have large numbers of decent, hardworking people performing important but low-paid roles in our communities. A lot more has to be done to support this group.”

Today, the minimum wage became $9.50 an hour for adults and $7.60 an hour for young people.

“Many in this country do not realise quite how low our wage rates have fallen after 20 years of economic restructuring and massive deunionisation.

“To bring New Zealand workers up to the same level as their Australian counterparts, the minimum rate would need to be more than $13 an hour. To bring the level up to 50 percent of the average New Zealand wage, they would need to receive at least $11.05 an hour.”

Ms Bradford said employers should be forced to pay more towards what it costs people to provide themselves and their families with basic food, clothing and shelter, rather than relying on the massive taxpayer subsidies currently provided.

“At a time when many employers have difficulty finding staff, it is ridiculous that minimum wages remain so low, and that the Government has to spend so much taxpayer money in corporate welfare, propping up employers through various forms of family support and the accommodation supplement.

“I’d have more sympathy for politicians calling for tax cuts if they also called for minimum wages to be raised to a level where less corporate welfare was required.”

ENDS

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