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Alliance supports moves to scrap youth rates

11 December 2005

Alliance supports moves to scrap youth rates

The Alliance supports Green MP Sue Bradford's call to scrap youth rates for 16 and 17 year olds.

However, the Alliance does not agree that it is acceptable to pay apprentices and trainees less than the minimum adult wage, says "Staunch" spokesperson Lynda Boyd.

"Exemptions to the minimum wage have been abused by employers to get cheap labour under the guise of training. There should be no loopholes," Ms Boyd says.

The Alliance increased the minimum wage during its term in Government and scrapped youth rates for 18 and 19 year olds.

The minimum wage should reflect the cost of living, including basic expenses such as food and power bills, Ms Boyd says.

"With the cost of petrol rising every week and rents going up, we think a liveable wage is more like $15 an hour."

But Ms Boyd, a Christchurch union organiser, says the minimum wage for young workers aged 16 or 17 is $7.60 an hour -- 80% of the adult minimum wage of $9.50 an hour.

This is well below the International Labour Organisation standard for the minimum wage which is two-thirds of the average wage (close to $15 an hour based on current New Zealand figures).

Ms Boyd says while 16 and 17 year olds can be paid 20% less than others doing the same job, there is no protection at all for under 16-year-olds.

"Paying people a lower wage to do the same job is discrimination. We don't accept women being paid less than men purely on the basis of our gender, and nor should we accept young workers getting paid less, simply because of our age."

Ms Boyd says many young workers have no option but to take on low-paid casual jobs in the fast foods industry or in retail where they are often exploited and bullied.

"Employers like young workers because they have no experience of unions, they don't know their rights, and they're easy to push around. All this, and they can pay them less!"

The Alliance says casual and part-time workers need more protection. It should be possible for them to carry over service from job to job so they qualify for sick leave and other minimum entitlements. [ www.alliance.org.nz ]

There should be more democracy in the workplace, Ms Boyd says.

"Young workers should have a say in the way their work is organised."

ENDS


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