May 4, 2006
Union to take action over youth rates
New Zealand’s largest union is warning employers to immediately abolish youth rates, and says it will take legal action to recover money owed to thousands of people in the wake of revelations that youth wage regulations are illegal.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little, an employment lawyer, said that anyone up to the age of 36 who had worked on minimum wages had probably been under-paid.
“If our members have been paid at illegally low rates of pay, then we must take action to recover what they are owed,” he said.
“Our legal team is drawing up plans to find out who has been affected, and to lodge claims against employers where we can. Under the Employment Relations Act, we can take claims back six years.”
The move follows the publishing of a legal opinion which says that the minimum wage regulations are illegal because they breach the Bill of Rights. That law came into force in 1987, and prohibits discrimination on age unless specifically authorised by Parliament.
Mr Little said that he understood that employers who had paid youth rates had believed them to be legal, but the legal opinion backed union views about youth rates.
“This is the final nail in the coffin for youth rates,” he said.
“We’ve always known that paying someone less simply because he or she is young is immoral. Now we know it’s illegal too.”