by Keith Locke
Too many New Zealand workers earn either the minimum wage or something close to it. They won’t be much happier with this week’s miserly increase from $12.75 an hour to $13.
The procedure for increasing the minimum wage is all wrong. Those on it never know when it might be increased or by how much. It is at the whim of the government of the day. And the National government is quite scrooge-like.
Why do we have such an arbitrary minimum wage fixing system? The government should look at how its own MPs’ salaries are determined. Every year the Remuneration Authority studies the salaries of private executives and increases MPs’ salaries accordingly.
Surely, ‘relativities’ should also determine the minimum wage. Wouldn’t it be good for the minimum wage to be always 66% of the average wage. $15 an hour, as asked for by the Greens, Labour and the Maori Party, would get us well on the way to this 66%. Currently the average wage is $25.83 an hour.
The business lobbyists tell John Key that any movement upwards in the minimum wage will cost jobs. Funny, they don’t seem to use that argument when determining their own salaries.
In fact, what is costing jobs at the moment is workers cutting back on spending due to low wages, which aren’t keeping up with inflation. And Australia seems to be doing ok with a minimum wage of $A15.
Some of the hardest workers in New Zealand – like cleaners and aged care workers – are on the minimum wage. Let’s make sure they get a much better deal.