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It’s official — the working poor just got poorer

4 October 2012

It’s official — the working poor just got poorer

“Statistics NZ figures showing near-record low increases in hourly rates will be no surprise to the country’s lowest earners,” said Service and Food Workers Union National Secretary John Ryall. “They are a growing group of working poor and they just got poorer.”

The New Zealand Income survey shows the change in median weekly income from wages and salaries is the smallest increase since 1999. Median incomes rose by 0.7 percent in the year to June 2012.

The SFWU represents 23,000 of New Zealand’s lowest paid workers, many of whom are paid close to the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour.

“Working families on low pay are really suffering and increasingly going without. Many are working multiple jobs and, no matter how hard they work, are falling further into poverty.”

John Ryall said with forty percent of children in poverty coming from households where at least one person was in full time work or self-employed, it was time for policies and action to lift low pay.

“We need to urgently significantly move the minimum wage and we need to take concrete steps to achieve a living wage for all workers. The current minimum wage is not an income that workers can survive on let alone have decent lives,” he said.

The SFWU has initiated a Living Wage campaign in New Zealand, modelled on successful campaigns overseas and endorsed by over 100 New Zealand community organisations.

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Conservative politicians and businesses alike support the living wage concept in London and across the UK,” said John Ryall.

“Current government policies and Business New Zealand’s mantra that we do not need to lift the minimum wage are increasing the number of working families in poverty and growing the ranks of the working poor in this country.”

John Ryall said it was time for publicly funded organisations and institutions to take a lead by paying a living wage to their workers, whether those workers are employees or contracted to deliver services, and wealthy corporates to take the lead in the private sector.

“New Zealand used to pride itself on being an egalitarian society. We need return to those principles and end poverty wage rates.”

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