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Posts Tagged ‘Living Wage’

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination? Labour Leadership Q&A #4

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 4

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : Gender pay discrimination in NZ is a reality. The recent ruling in the Kristine Bartlett/SFWU case gives some hope. How would your leadership promote progress on achieving equal pay for work of equal value?

Submitted by : Lesley Soper, Invercargill



Answer from Shane Jones

The previous Labour Government made progress in this area.

It increased the wages of nurses.

I will use my position of leadership to ensure that the States resources are spent to give concrete improvement towards pay equity.

This is a core feature of Labour Party strategy and will not be neglected if I am leader.


Answer from Grant Robertson

I am really proud of the work of SFWU, Kristine and her lawyer Peter Cranney in getting that ruling.

It offers the prospect that equal pay will now become a matter of common law, and we will not need legislation to ensure it.

But we must be vigilant. National has no commitment to equal pay, and if legislation is needed, just as previous Labour governments have done we will pass it.

An immediate increase to the minimum wage, scrapping the Youth Rates, support for the Living Wage campaign and re-establishment of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit within government are also important parts of ensuring that we achieve equal pay for work of equal value


Answer from David Cunliffe

I believe we need to lead by example. National has not been ambitious for women. When National took office, there were 1153 women in boardroom positions. Today, there are only 1059, and falling. Government has a role to play in setting a leadership example, that is why I am committed to no less 50 % of the Labour caucus being women by no later than 2017.

Labour has a strong record of working to address gender pay inequality.

I am committed to investigating legislative and policy changes to close the gap based on the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit. This includes, recognising the right to equal pay, a positive duty to advance equality, and a mechanism to determine work of equal value.

I am also supportive of ensuring information about pay rates are made available so that comparisons can be made and unfair inequalities in pay rates between men and women are revealed.


Simon says

Posted by on February 27th, 2013

New Labour Minister Simon Bridges had his first outing in question time (other than a patsy from his own side last week).  Mini me answered on behalf of the PM when he answered my question today :

DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the living wage is “simplistic”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Labour) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, and for two reasons. The first is that the Family Centre’s living wage of $18.40 an hour is calculated on the basis of a two-adult, two-child family, whereas a lot of low-income earners are in different circumstances—for example, students working part-time. The second reason is that it assumes that paying much higher wages is costless, when it is not—it costs jobs. If all employers in the country paid a minimum wage of $18.40, it would cost an estimated 26,000 jobs.

Darien Fenton: When he said that providing New Zealanders with a living wage is not high on his Government’s agenda, was he saying that Kiwi workers should not expect to make a living from their work while he is Prime Minister?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. Ultimately, above the minimum wage, what is paid is up for employers and their employees to negotiate.

Darien Fenton: Does he believe that the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour is enough for families to live on; if so, why do two out of the five children in poverty come from families in work?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What is very clear is that actually there is a range of circumstances. For people on the minimum wage with children, for example, there are a range of packages available to them from the Government. The truth of the matter is that actually our minimum wage, as a proportion of the average wage, is the highest in the developed world.

Darien Fenton: How is it fair that his Government is giving minimum wage workers a measly 25c pay rise, while at the same time it is splashing out on $23 million worth of bonuses for Solid Energy’s management?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What is very clear is that having a job is much better than not having one, and we are very conscious, unlike the other party, which does not seem to understand economic fundamentals, that the higher we raise the minimum wage, the more people are put out of jobs—7,000 under your policy.

Darien Fenton: Why is the Prime Minister still insisting that a $15-an-hour minimum wage will cost thousands of jobs when Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment both say there is little evidence to support this, and his own Minister of Labour said this morning that there is no science behind that argument?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is uncontroversial amongst good economists that the higher the minimum wage goes, the more jobs people do not get. At $15 an hour, it is about 7,000—a town.

My verdict :

Not a bad effort for repeating government lines and economic mythologies about the minimum wage, but not a big step up from the previous Minister, Kate Wilkinson.

Shows a reliance on officials for advice and not much originality in the answers.

Provided some useful lines for the opposition in future debates around work and wages.

Your verdict :

Marks out of 10? 



Wake up and listen

Posted by on February 15th, 2013

This last week has seen the Living Wage profiled in a way rarely seen of any social movement in recent times. The NZ Herald ran a week long series, Duncan Garner came out as a strong advocate on Radio Live, other journalists picked it up with interviews and stories. Even the Prime Minister took on the language of the Living Wage even if he was trying to diss the notion and tell us all it’s not happening under his government.

Like it or not, the Living Wage movement has hit New Zealand. It’s powerful, it’s growing and will change the narrative not only around work and wages, but around community expectations about how they want and need to live.

While there’s been a lot of publicity around the “rate” of the living wage, announced by the community alliance of the Living Wage Aotearoa NZ, the two day symposium held this week in Auckland was much more than a talk about wages. It was designed to highlight the changing nature of work, the challenges to the norms of defining work and labour, the impact on our communities and the Living Wage movement as a growing community movement in response.

Guy Standing, who I blogged about some time ago, kicked off the seminar with a challenging lecture on “The Precariat – the new dangerous class”. You can find many Guy Standing lectures on Youtube and he’s really worth tuning into. Standing says the old class structures of the 20th century are vanishing (whether we like it or not) and being replaced by new ones – the largest being the growing class of the “precariat” – who have no occupational identity, who work in increasingly precarious arrangements, are expected to do a high ratio of work for labour (ie applying for multiple jobs, filling in forms, travelling to interviews and from job to job) and who, by and large reject the political agendas of the Right and the Left and other established organizations such as unions, simply because they are irrelevant to them.

Then today, Deborah Littman, from London Citizens and now the Metro Vancouver Alliance gave a compelling lecture about the movement in the UK and Canada. If you want to know about why and how, you can watch it here.  If you want to know about the business case and case studies, watch it here.

The overseas movements have grown up over many years, but their experiences and stories provide a lift for our own home grown version as it gathers strength.

New Zealand’s movement is following in their footsteps, building an alliance with unions, faith based and community organisations involved in Living Wage Aotearoa NZ. It’s a different dynamic; not party politically aligned, with no group dominating, with a lot of listening and understanding of how low pay comes at a cost to society as a whole. And then a negotiation through the process of moving to a living wage that provides families with the basic necessities of life, to live with dignity and participate as active citizens in our society.

We need to wake up and listen.

On Fairness and Courage

Posted by on September 2nd, 2012

As the excited crowd left the public gallery of Parliament on Wednesday evening, the Speaker had to pause the business of the House. There was a buzz in the air following the vote on Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill. It was a great night for fairness, equality and courage. The journey New Zealand has been on since the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in the 80s, through Civil Unions in 00s took another important step in giving all New Zealanders a fair go. We saw some courageous testimonies in the days leading up to the vote and some courageous speeches and voting on the night.

When the crowd had dispersed, and the gallery was deserted, my friend and colleague David Clark got up to introduce his private members bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in line with Labour’s 2011 manifesto commitment. The crowd should have stayed. He gave a great speech. So did Darien Fenton who followed on from him focusing on the plight of the cleaners in Parliament. Have a look at the speeches, they are thoughtful and heartfelt pleas for a fair wage for all workers. The response from the government speakers was as predictable as it was out of touch.

Those National MPs should all have listened to the courage of Sosefina Masoe a cleaner who spoke the next day at the Wellington launch of the Living Wage campaign. She has spoken publicly before of her story of working for just on the minimum wage while trying to support her children and wider family. Talking to her afterwards it was hard not be moved by her hopes for a better life for her children. It is what all New Zealanders would want. She deserves far better than a $13.50 minimum wage, she deserves a living wage. Our Bill is a first step.

I would have loved the crowd who so enthusiastically supported marriage equality to have stayed and cheered on a fair go for our lowest paid workers. The issues come from the same well-spring. Its all part of the agenda of a fair go for all New Zealanders and a society where we reject exclusion and unfairness and embrace and value the contribution that all Kiwis can make to our society.

I am proud that Labour had two Bills in a row on the order paper on Wednesday that pursued the core progressive values of fairness and equality. We must, and will, continue to show the courage to propose the measures to build the better and fairer society, in all its many forms.

Living Wage – an idea whose time has come?

Posted by on April 20th, 2012

Who described the Living Wage as “an idea whose time has come?”

David Cameron, Conservative British PM – that’s who.

The Living Wage concept has caught on in the UK and the US and it was great to hear David Shearer put Labour’s name to it yesterday.

Everyone wants to know who, how, how much and when. But the Living Wage concept isn’t just about having a policy on paper. It’s about a movement, where communities organise to persuade the people, politicians, the council and business that paying a living wage is the right thing to do.

A Living Wage is the level of income necessary to provide acceptable standard of living for a person and their family.

It’s different to the legal minimum wage, which provides a floor below which wages must not fall, but the minimum wage is not tied to a recognised standard of living. It’s a politically decided standard, that rises or falls depending on who is in government.  Labour remains committed to lifting the minimum wage (at this stage to $15 an hour), but we can do better.

We need to get to a point where there is agreement about what is fair and what families should be expected to live on.

In the UK, London Citizens have been organising for ten years, bringing together community groups, faith based organisations, businesses, trade unions and politicians. In 2011, Citizens UK, (the nationwide equivalent of London Citizens) launched the Living Wage Foundation to respond to a growing interest in other cities.

The Living Wage  was an election issue in the 2004 London Council elections, and London Mayor, “Red” Ken Livingstone established a dedictaed Living Wage Unit within the Greater London Authority in 2004. Boris Johnson, the conservative Mayor who followed him has continued the Unit and now all of London’s councils pay all workers, including directly employed, contracted or temporary workers at least the London Living Wage or above.

This year’s London Olympics will be the first Living Wage Olympics in history. Imagine that.

Governments can lead by applying a Living Wage to everyone who works for the State Sector. Councils can do the same on the basis that wherever public money is used to purchase goods or services, low wages should not be the competitive factor. In the US Living Wage Ordinances apply this principal.

The current London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour would roughly equate to roughly NZ$16-17 an hour. This took into account the prices of staple items in the family shopping basket, along with relativities with the median income, to estimate a ‘poverty threshold wage’, and then added a 15% margin on top to give some protection against unforeseen events.

Of course such an example can only broadly indicative – but it demonstrates just why a Living Wage, not just a Minimum Wage is needed.

I’m confident that a Living Wage movement will develop in New Zealand and the hows, the whats, the whos, the how muches, and all the rest of it will gather force before the next election. It will need political support, and Labour’s David Shearer has given it.

I’m not given to quoting conservatives, but as David Cameron said, it’s an idea whose time has come.