A union representing many low paid workers, especially in the retail sector, has described this week’s 50 cent increase in the minimum wage to $13.50 as “pathetic”.
Robert Reid, General Secretary of FIRST Union said that it is completely impossible for a family to live on two full time minimum wage incomes, let alone if one parent is out of the paid workforce looking after children.
“$13.50 may be the new minimum wage but it is not a decent wage,” Robert Reid said.
Unions have been pushing for a $15 minimum wage for the last few years and at the last election the Labour, Greens, Mana and Maori parties signed up to an immediate minimum wage lift of at least this amount.
“But even $15 is no longer an adequate level for a living wage,” Robert Reid said.
“Low paid workers have been impacted by major increases in inflation last year as a result of the GST increase that they were not compensated for.”
Robert Reid said that FIRST Union is dealing with the lack of a decent government set minimum wage by aggressively bargaining for wage levels well above this figure during collective bargaining.
“In the retail sector, the question of a wage levels is not one of affordability, but one of decency,” Robert Reid said.
“The level of wages paid is completely dependent on union penetration in each of the retail chains.
“As a result of union negotiations, from 28 May Countdown supermarket checkout operators will receive $15.48 per hour, almost $2.00 more than the minimum wage. Workers at unionised Pak’NSave stores will receive $15.00 to $16.00 an hour, but non-unionised Pak’NSave and New World stores are only paying the minimum wage or a few cents more.
“In non- food retail FIRST Union Collective Agreements with The Warehouse, Bunnings and Kmart are paid above the minimum wage, but most workers at the very recently unionised highly profitable Rebel Sport / Briscoes are only paid around the minimum wage.
“We currently have a proposal with Briscoes for an immediate wage increase to take its underpaid workers well over the minimum wage and closer to the wages that its competitors are paying,” said Robert Reid.