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Time to pay essential heroes a decent wage, says Green Party


The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how much we rely on our essential workers. The Green Party are proposing a package that ensures they are paid a dignified wage so they do not live in poverty.

Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today:

“Throughout the COVID crisis, we have all relied on the essential workers on the frontline.

“The people who stack shelves, care for our most vulnerable in rest homes, and transport goods around the country, risking their own health in doing so.

“The Green Party believes these heroes deserve to earn enough to live on and is proposing a series of changes to bring essential workers’ pay up to a dignified wage.

“Low-wage essential workers are getting New Zealand through this crisis and continue to do so. They went to work when the rest of us were told to stay away – and people would be horrified to hear many of them barely earn enough to live on.

“People like those working in supermarkets, rest homes, and driving public transport have made their worth clear. They deserve a wage where they can live with dignity. That’s why the Green Party is proposing changes to ensure these heroes are paid fairly.”

Green Party Workplace Relations spokesperson Jan Logie said today:

“Firstly, the Government must bring in legislation to enable Fair Pay Agreements, for people doing essential work like retail, cleaning, security and transport in the private sector. These agreements set minimum employment standards, which are agreed through bargaining between employers and unions.

“Those agreements then become legally-required minimum standards for people working throughout the whole sector.

“The Government should ensure all people working in the broader public sector are paid a decent wage, including contractors, people working for crown entities, and people working for Government-funded community organisations.

Core public service employees have earned a living wage since 2018. However, this does not extend to people employed by crown entities or people whose work is contracted or otherwise funded by the Government, but who are employed by private companies or community organisations.

“We also want a hospitality sector working group established immediately. This would bring employers, unions and Government around the planning table to get the industry on a more sustainable footing going forward,” said Jan Logie.

“The Government has the legislative tools to bring all essential workers up to the living wage. These unsung heroes have made their worth abundantly clear. It’s time to pay them fairly.”

How would it work?

The Green Party is proposing three steps to bring all essential workers’ pay up to a wage that reflects the work they do.

1) Firstly, the Government needs to introduce legislation to enable Fair Pay Agreements as soon as possible. These Agreements will be a set of sector-specific minimum employment standards covering wages and working conditions. Essentially, it sets a fair framework for negotiations between employers and unions, which once agreed upon, become legal requirements for all people working in that sector.

More information on Fair Pay Agreements: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/employment-and-skills/employment-legislation-reviews/fair-pay-agreements/

2) For those working in the public sector, we should make provision to increase pay for the lowest paid public sector workers, including those with jobs funded by the public sector, to ensure everyone is on a living wage.

3) We should set up a hospitality sector working group. This would bring employers, unions and Government around the planning table to get the industry on a more sustainable footing going forward.

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