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A (Very) Small Step For Working People

MEDIA STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 14 November 2000

A (VERY) SMALL STEP FOR WORKING PEOPLE

"The 2% increase to the adult minimum wage, and larger boosts to the youth minimum are welcomed but fall well short of the minimum wage regime needed to eliminate poverty amongst the lowest paid workers," said Trade Union Federation President, Maxine Gay. She was reacting to today's Government announcement on minimum wage increases for 2001.

"The new rate of $7.70 falls far short of the internationally recognised standard for minimum wages of 67% of the average wage," Maxine Gay said. "It does not even match the current rate of inflation that now sits at over 3%."

"The exploitation of young workers will be lessened by lowering the age of eligibility for the adult wage to 18 and increasing the youth minimum for 16 and 17 year olds to 80% of the adult rate," Maxine Gay said. "The Minister of Youth Affairs, Laila Harre, must be congratulated on forcing this change through her more timid cabinet colleagues.

"However, a minimum wage should be just that, a minimum wage," Maxine Gay said. "The concept of a minimum wage is diluted when it is discounted on the basis of age. The same applies to the introduction of training minimums. While it is progress that we now have minimum rates for trainees, the rates should be the standard minimum wage."

"Once again it seems that the level of minimum wage increase is based more on the relative strengths of the coalition partners rather than any coherent public policy determination on what the level of minimum wage should be in a country such as New Zealand. Until this is sorted out minimum wage setting will never be satisfactory for the poor and the country as a whole."

"Trade Unions, community and social service organisations such as foodbanks must work together to ensure that a wage of at least $10 per hour becomes the absolute minimum if we are to eliminate the growing phenomena of the "working poor". We will have to this for another year by organisation rather than regulation," she said.

The Trade Union Federation calls for the immediate creation of a Government Review panel on the minimum wage to work on these issues over the forthcoming year. "Reviews have been set up for other aspects of the "minimum code", but not the fundamental issue of wages," Maxine Gay said.

For further information contact Maxine Gay (04) 237 5062 (w), (04) 389 5399 (h), (025)276 9225

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