25 January 2004
Report on Working Children Shows
Need to Address Poverty
The Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont says unions support the Caritas report’s recommendation that household poverty be addressed so that children do not have to work to supplement the family income.
The Catholic agency, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, surveyed the work experiences of almost 5000 10 to 17-year-old students at Catholic schools and found that children from low-decile schools are most likely to be working to support the family income.
“This shows the need for the Government to fulfill the commitment signaled for this year’s Budget to helping low income families,” Carol Beaumont said.
“In its wider sense the study also shows the need for proposed employment law reform which will strengthen collective bargaining and therefore improve the wages of all workers, particularly those on low incomes.”
The study showed that lack of proper employment agreements and union coverage meant some employers were exploiting children by paying them less than $2 per hour, Carol Beaumont said.
There is no legal minimum wage for workers under 16. “Unions want the youth minimum wage, for workers aged 16 to 18, to be abolished and the minimum wage to cover all workers, not matter what age they are,” she said.
“We accept that it can be beneficial for young people to have jobs, but we do not accept that they do these jobs without proper safeguards and fair pay.”
The study also showed that too many employers were not fulfilling their legal duty to protect workers’ health and safety.
“Some of these children are carrying heavy loads or are driving tractors, diggers and forklifts. Many have reported getting cuts, burns, dog bites and broken bones while at work,” Carol Beaumont said.
“Employers must realise that under the law they are required to protect the health and safety of all their workers, including any children they employ,” she said.