by Sue Bradford
Rumours are growing in Wellington that National will not increase the minimum wage this year.
A Government announcement is expected on or before 9 February.
Intimations that Kate Wilkinson, the new Minister of Labour, will recommend a nil minimum wage increase to Cabinet have hit the blogosphere despite her own Department supporting a rise from $12.00 to $12.50 an hour.
While many of us are inclined to expect the worst given National’s track record, I still hold out slender hope that new broom John Key and his economic sidekick Bill English might understand that keeping wages down will actually do more harm than good in an economy fast slipping deeper into recession.
If Mr Key is serious about working towards pay parity with Australia – and about boosting the spending power of the ordinary citizen – the last thing he should be doing is maintaining the minimum wage at its current low level.
To freeze the minimum wage now is a recipe for further cuts to spending, deeper poverty for the hundreds of thousands of workers and their families directly impacted, and an intensified recessionary spiral.
And it is not just those who sit right on the minimum wage that are affected – it is also all the huge numbers of workers whose low rate of pay, often between the $12 and $15 mark – is determined by the minimum wage rate.
Even the Labour Department’s reported 50c an hour recommended increase covers only the extent to which the minimum wage has been eroded by inflation since last year.
The Green Party will be continuing to push a hard as we can for a realistic lift in the minimum wage this year.
When considering the level of the minimum wage Cabinet should bear in mind they are led by a man who made his fortune in the very financial sector that is responsible for the world’s economy collapsing around our ears.
It would not be a good look for them to be seen to be expecting struggling low paid workers and their families, who bear no responsibility for our economic crisis, to shoulder the burden of recovery.