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Out of touch government condemns low paid workers to poverty

Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota Media Release

26 February 2013

Out of touch government condemns low paid workers to poverty

While the Prime Minister pocketed an extra $150 a week in December's pay rise, New Zealand's lowest paid workers will get a miserable $10 increase if they are lucky enough to get a full week's work.

Service and Food Workers Union National Secretary John Ryall said today the Government was utterly out of touch with the realities for working families struggling on poverty pay.

"The 25 cents increase in the minimum hourly wage is an insult to hard-working New Zealanders and a disgrace," he said.

"Ten dollars a week won't even buy the most basic household items, let alone keep up with skyrocketing rentals, power, transport and other household bills."

John Ryall said the Government was living in a bubble, blind to the suffering of workers and their families on very low pay.

"There are thousands of real people, including caregivers, cleaners and security guards, on the minimum wage in New Zealand, trying to feed their families and get by. The Government is obviously happy to see them starve," he said.

John Ryall said the "new entrant" increase of 20 cents would be a joke if it wasn't so tragic.

“Nobody can live on these rates and we are on an ever-increasing downward spiral into a country of haves and have-nots,” he said.

John Ryall said arguments that New Zealand’s minimum wage was relatively high were wrong.

“In countries like Australia, the rates for low-paid jobs are set by an award system. In New Zealand the minimum wage is a grim reality for many thousands of workers and the figure sets a rock-bottom benchmark for many more thousands paid at rates close to the minimum wage,” he said.

John Ryall said an independent report, published two weeks ago, identified $18.40 an hour as the New Zealand living wage — the income necessary not just to survive, but to live a decent but modest life.

“Nobody could survive on $13.50 and nobody can survive on $13.75,” he said.

“There is growing concern in New Zealand about poverty and inequality and this announcement will add to that concern.”

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