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Minimum wage increase welcomed - Greens

18 December 2006

Minimum wage increase welcomed - Greens

The increase in the minimum wage by a dollar to $11.25 per hour is welcome and business cannot credibly claim the rise is unaffordable, the Greens' Industrial Relations Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"There is no better time than during a strong economy for New Zealand to boost the current poverty level minimum wages," Ms Bradford says.

Ms Bradford dismisses the concerns of some business organisations about the affordability of increases to the minimum wage.

"Over the period of the Labour led Government, the minimum wage has risen by 46.4 percent and the average wage by only 20.5 per cent, but business profits have risen by a massive 54 percent during the same period." Ms Bradford says.

"The rise announced today is not overly generous. When cost of living adjustments are taken into account, the $12 an hour minimum wage level called for by the Greens during the 2005 election campaign, has now moved to just over $13 per hour. If one applied the European Union social standard - which sets the minimum wage at two thirds of the average wage - we would be setting New Zealand's minimum wage at $13.66," Ms Bradford says.

"Business lobby groups complain a lot about the ripple effect of minimum wage hikes. However, given that average wages have risen by only 20.4 percent since September 1999, while profits have leapt by 54 percent, the business sector has economic room to spare to absorb any ripple effects."

Ms Bradford is disappointed that the Government has not used the opportunity of this minimum wage regulation to eliminate the discriminatory youth rates of 80 percent of the adult rate.

"There is considerable doubt that youth minimum wage rates are actually legal, according to the Government's own advice," Ms Bradford says.

"A legal opinion by the Ministry of Justice to the Attorney General in February 2006 stated that it was not lawful for the Government to regulate for minimum wages that were discriminatory on the basis of age. The Government must support my Bill to end minimum wage age discrimination when it comes back to the House early next year," Ms Bradford says.

ENDS

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