Labour leader David Shearer made his second major “scene setting” speech in Nelson today and outlined Labour’s support for the introduction of a “living wage” movement in New Zealand to pay people what they need to live on, rather than just sticking to the minimum wage. Here’s some excerpts :
Here in New Zealand we have been working harder than almost anyone in the developed world. But it’s not paying off.
We are trying to succeed by squeezing more out of people, by paying lower wages than other countries and working longer hours than them. When people tell me they’re actually working harder for less, I believe them.
Hundreds of thousands of honest individuals get out of bed each day and go to work, and they cannot get ahead. Take the rest home workers who earn eleven cents an hour above the minimum wage doing a really important job – looking after our parents in the years in need.
They’re playing by the rules, doing their bit. And yet how do they raise a family on eleven cents more than the minimum wage?
Take the skilled contractor or the owner of a small business who risks everything to raise the capital they need to buy equipment or a van, take on staff or subbies. I want them to know someone is on their side, and to feel hopeful that our economy is working for them just as hard as they are working.
I want them to know someone is on their side, and to feel hopeful that our economy is working for them just as hard as they are working.
Then he unpicks the productivity vs wage argument :
The average wage in 1989, in today’s dollars, was $21.49. By 2011, it had reached $24.43. But if wages grew as much as productivity for the twenty-two years up to 2011, then the hourly rate would have been $31.85. That’s an extra seven dollars an hour, or $297 a week that the average worker earned but didn’t get paid. How many people would be wanting to go to Australia as they are now in record numbers if we paid that?
And the idea of a Living Wage :
Imagine if we could create a New Zealand where everyone could earn enough to provide a good living for their family. That’s not the case now.
One emerging idea I’m interested in is the Living Wage. It’s the amount a person needs to earn to provide for themselves and a family. It’s started to catch on London since 2004 when the London mayor set up a unit that works out the Living Wage level each year. Over time, as finances allowed, Council gradually began to pay the Living Wage level. Now some businesses that contract with the Council have agreed to pay it too, whether they hire direct employees, contractors, or temporary staff.
And on the National government’s approach to our future :
We can’t cut our way to prosperity. Zero budgets are what you get when you fail. How many people would be wanting to go to Australia as they are now in record numbers if we paid that. Surely lifting everyone up must be the point of economic growth, or why do we bother?”
And a message to New Zealand working people :
The message I want to give the thousands of New Zealanders who go to work every day, look after their kids and do the right thing, is this:
Labour will deliver for you. Under Labour you will be our priority. We want the country to work for you.