With the recent news that all bank workers in New Zealand - including contractors, cleaners and other non-financial staff - will now be receiving the living wage, it is time to highlight the central role of collective bargaining in negotiating fair wages and ask ourselves as a country why many workers in comparable industries like retail and transport are still earning poverty wages and struggling to make ends meet despite working full-time jobs, FIRST Union said today.
"Yesterday’s announcement that the banking sector is now a fully living wage accredited industry is confirmation that collective bargaining works and the voices of workers themselves are crucial to any discussion about wages and conditions," said Tali Williams, FIRST Union Secretary for Retail and Finance.
"Make no mistake - New Zealand’s banks have not all decided to pay their staff a living wage due to their goodwill alone - this has been a process of years’ work at the negotiating table between each member bank and union delegates representing thousands of staff who were demanding fairness and respect from their employers."
"I am so proud of our delegates at every one of the major banks, who understood that they shared a struggle and then worked together across their brands and regions to learn from each other’s successes and failures, and every one of them can claim a win together this week."
"The Living Wage Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand have also done brilliant work over the last few years in bringing transparency and authenticity to the processes of accrediting employer banks with 'living wage' status."
"At a moment like this, it is a really good time to ask ourselves why other essential workers like bus drivers and supermarket staff aren’t all receiving a living wage for the work they do."
"Why should anyone putting decades of their lives into frontline jobs in retail, for example, only receiving pay rises when the minimum wage goes up?"
"The key is understanding that we have, as a society and a culture, undervalued the people we depend on to keep us safe, happy and prosperous."
"We’ve moved into a new stage of the twenty-first century where an unpredictable global pandemic has highlighted the utter precarity of our economic systems and demanded that we appreciate and reward the people who actually run our societies, because without them we are all vulnerable to harm."
"Bank workers have set the standard this week, and every other worker earning less than the living wage in New Zealand should take note and start talking to each other."
"Together it’s possible, necessary and overdue."