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Community to Make Poverty Wages History

Community to Make Poverty Wages History

Community representatives came together today to support fast food workers and their SuperSizeMyPay.com campaign as a step towards winning a reasonable standard of living and making poverty wages history for all New Zealanders.

All members of the community panel supported the campaign’s demands of a $12 minimum wage, an end to youth rates and secure hours. The representatives agreed that low pay and a substandard minimum wage were at the heart of poverty.

“The recent resurgence in young people’s interest in unions is a direct result of age discrimination and being overworked and underpaid in jobs that offer little chance of a lasting career,” said Matt McCarten, Auckland Industrial President, Unite Union. “Improving workers’ security and pay in employment is critical to fulfilling their basic human rights and ensuring they can maintain a decent standard of living.”

Susan Tuaniu, Unite Union’s Senior Fast Food Spokesperson, KFC said the recent minimum wage rise to $10.25 only meant an extra $20 a week in the hand. “If all low paid workers and the community stand behind us to get McDonald’s, Burger King, and Restaurant Brands KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks, to lead the industry in improving our conditions and our pay, it will be a significant step towards securing a better future for everyone and making poverty wages history,” she said.

Ross Wilson, Council of Trade Unions (CTU) President said a $12 minimum wage was justifiable on both equity and economic development grounds. “The CTU wants the Government to phase in a minimum wage of two thirds of the average adult wage, and we see an increase to $12 now as a step in that direction."

Donna Wynd, Spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group, said she was shocked at the number of working families that require food from foodbanks. “The bottom line is that those who are working should be able to provide for their families – it is not just the workers who are affected, it’s their kids,” she said.

“The take home pay of many thousands of women and young people has plummeted in the last 15 years,” said Laila Harré, National Secretary, National Distribution Union (NDU), and former Minister of Women's and Youth Affairs and Associate Minister of Labour. “Retail workers lost their penal rates and have seen precious little in the way of base rate increases. We are literally waited on hand and foot, cared for and comforted by legions of women and young people whose pay checks barely stretch from one week to the next.”

Nick Harris, Maori youth solicitor at YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki said young workers are vulnerable to mistreatment or being subject to a lack of basic employment conditions in the workplace. “YouthLaw supports the SuperSizeMyPay.Com campaign and Sue Bradford’s bill in the view that they are consistent with Article 32 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires that States recognise the rights of young people aged under 18 to be protected from economic exploitation and to appropriate regulation and conditions of their employment.”

Sharon Clair, Make Poverty History spokesperson and NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Maori policy analyst said there was a direct link between Maori being overrepresented in minimum wage jobs and having high rates of child and family poverty, poor nutrition and health, unemployment and crime. “Caregivers with over 20 years of experience earning only $9.50 an hour can’t afford health care, just like fast food workers can’t afford to feed their families. Poverty is a reflection of society’s lack of respect, consideration and responsibility to its most vulnerable,” she said.

“Migrants are twice as likely to be tertiary educated, yet twice as likely to be unemployed or in minimum wage and low paid jobs,” said Ruth De Souza, Senior Research Fellow and Centre Co-ordinator for the Asian and Migrant Health Research Centre at AUT. "Migrants are more easily exploited due to being in a new environment with less awareness of their rights in their new home country. The demand by many employers that they have local experience and not have accents means that in order to enter the labour market they might take on jobs below their abilities thus having less choice over their standard of employment.”

John Minto, Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesperson, said workers were treated as a resource to be used for the convenience of others who are better off. “These are real people, supporting real families, who are unable to do so in New Zealand, the ‘land of plenty’. Stripped back to the basics, low paid workers are denied dignity in employment. Workers rights to decent pay are human rights,” he said.

“We had this fight 60 years ago and we’ve gone backwards so fast that it’s not funny” said Percy Allison, Chairperson for the Poverty Action Coalition who turns 79 this Saturday. “When I was twenty in 1947, the minimum wage was set at 83 per cent of the average wage which would be the equivalent of workers earning around $17 today. It was set at 66 per cent of the average wage in 1973 and has declined ever since.”

Rev Mua Strickland-Pua, Chaplain of Tagata Pacifica Resource and Development Trust who has been working for 20 years as a community advocate said the Pacific demographics clearly show a younger population. “Given the tradition economic responsibilities for young Pasifikans to support their aigas/whanau, it is imperative for social justice and equity that a liveable minimum wage be implemented immediately.”

Bronwyn Cross, Secretary for Policy at the Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) said teachers were particularly concerned about the effect that part-time work done in unsatisfactory conditions has on student learning. “One of the flow-on effects of low pay is that it’s difficult for adults to support a family on such wages, meaning that the pressure goes on the students to get a job to help out the family finances. Often the student is funding their own school costs, uniform, exam fees and trips.”

Greens Industrial Relations MP, Sue Bradford has donated her MP’s back pay to SuperSizeMyPay.com. Her Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill is to have its first reading in parliament on February 15. She asked why a 16 or 17 year-old should receive less pay than an 18 year-old doing exactly the same work. "It’s an outrage that young people are still subject to the same kind of discrimination that used to happen to women.”

Signed: Matt McCarten, Auckland Industrial President, Unite Union Susan Tuaniu, Unite Union Fast Food Spokesperson, KFC Ross Wilson, President, Council of Trade Unions (CTU) Donna Wynd, Spokesperson, Child Poverty Action Group Nick Harris, Maori Youth Solicitor, YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki Laila Harré, National Secretary, National Distribution Union (NDU), former Minister of Women's and Youth Affairs and Associate Minister of Labour Sharon Clair, Make Poverty History, NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Ruth De Souza, (in a personal capacity) Senior research fellow and centre co-ordinator for the Asian and Migrant Health Research Centre at Auckland University of Technology. John Minto, Spokesperson, Global Peace and Justice Auckland (GPJA) Percy Allison, Spokesperson, Poverty Action Coalition Rev Mua Pua, Chaplain of Tagata Pacifica Resource and Development Trust, Pacific Island Community worker Bronwyn Cross, Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) Simon Oosterman, Campaign Co-ordinator, SuperSizeMyPay.Com Sue Bradford MP, Industrial Relations, Green Party.

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