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Brash's prescription closes Tasman 'wealth' gap

4 December 2009
For Immediate Release

Brash's prescription closes trans-Tasman 'wealth' gap, not 'pay' gap

New Zealand workers are well aware we earn less than our neighbours in Australia, but the 2025 Taskforce solutions won't solve the problem.

Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) Northern Region Secretary Jill Ovens, says the Union's members who work in hospitals, schools and other state-funded organisations are being offered zero per cent pay increases.

"We will never close the gap with Aussie incomes if public sector workers stay on the same pay while Australian pay rates are rising. The National-led government is saying there is no money to pay even a cost of living increase to their employees. Effectively our members are being asked to take a pay cut," Ms Ovens says.

The Union says there is no way private sector service workers will get anywhere near Australian wages if their fellow workers in the public sector are being offered nothing.

Commercial cleaners in New Zealand are on $12.55 while commercial cleaners in Australia earn $20.96 an hour for day cleaning or $24.11 for night cleaning under their union agreement.

"If Don Brash was serious about closing the pay gap with Australia, he would advocate that the minimum wage be lifted to two-thirds of the average wage, the recognised international standard - that would immediately lift the minimum hourly rate to $16.96, which is still $4-$7 an hour behind Australian cleaners."

Instead the 2025 Taskforce is searching for ways to close the "wealth gap" for those at the top of the income pyramid.

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The Brash 2025 policy prescription includes bringing back youth rates, dismantling employment rights, slashing taxes for the rich, cutting government spending on health, education and social welfare, more privatisation of publicly-owned assets, more free trade and foreign takeovers, more mining, less government regulation and climate change action, and, to top it off, an increase in the age of superannuation.

Ms Ovens says the policies of deregulation, privatisation, and anti-unionism of the period from 1984 to 2002 led to the gap between New Zealand and Australian wages becoming so wide. In the early 1980s, the wages in the two countries were on a par.

"Someone once wrote that 'history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce'. Brash wants to repeat the tragedy of the neo-liberal experiment of the late 20th century," she says.

The CTU calculated that if the ordinary time wages had kept up with productivity gains between 1980 and 2008, the average wage would have been $38.60 an hour, rather than the $24.47 it actually was in 2008.

"The only way to close the trans-Tasman wage gap is to lift the wages of New Zealand workers. This would boost the economy and bring a just reward for the large productivity gains made in the last three decades."

ENDS

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