The Coalition Government has announced the largest increase to the minimum wage, ever, in its move towards its minimum
wage goal of $20 per hour by 2021.
FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga says while the minimum wage (currently $16.50), is not enough to live off and
should only have ever been used as a very temporary rate, the increase will make a difference.
“We welcome it and celebrate the increase to $17.70. It will mean almost an extra $50 dollars a week on a full time (40-hour) work week. Fifty dollars is a lot of money,
especially when you’re receiving just over $500 in the hand each week on the current minimum wage working full time. It
will mean food on the table and less worry about the power being shut off.
Mr Maga says considering the emergence of the working poor, something previous generations have never experienced, it’s
safe to say we have reached a new low on wages in New Zealand.
“Wages in New Zealand have been far too low for far too long, the capital versus people’s share of wealth has been tipped
against working people, it’s time people started earning more of the returns their work produces. Inequality is a
shameful part of New Zealand and these increases will begin to close the gap between the rich and poor which has been
growing over the last 30 years. This is a change that’s heading in the right direction. Next year will be a little
easier for some of our most deprived working people. FIRST Union organisers work in very profitable industries yet we
still have low wage workers.”
Low wage workers support minimum wage workers’ increase
While FIRST Union members are not on minimum wage rates as they are on collective contracts, their stories of being on
low wages are important. Some of their comments are below.
A permanent full time worker; “I work 40 hours a week but always have to look for more hours because my pay is not enough. It feels like I’m just
surviving rather than being able to live and save. I have to dig into my credit card to pay bills and I’m on above the
A regional worker, “For us, we have to fight to get something that’s still not... the increase is good but still not enough. The cost of
living keeps going up and we’re still far behind. A liveable wage, it’s still not there. So the increase, that’s all
good but people are still struggling.”
A staffer dealing with a sick family member, “That’s wonderful, fantastic, I’m going through a tough time, that’s good news, anything, that’s good news.”
One person on cents above the new minimum, “I think it’s a good idea I hope employers paying low wages make a fair increase too, I feel for those on the minimum
A few years from retiring, “That puts the cat amongst the pigeons for everybody, especially us older workers. It won’t help us, it won’t help out
our generation. We’ve got a real problem with wages, everyone’s got a problem with wages; everyone’s paid under what
they should be.”
On whether it will help, “Not with the way the cost of living is going, everything is going up all the time except wages. Twenty dollars an hour
would fall in align with what it costs to live. It’s not easy.”
On few to no increases, “Having worked for fifteen years for the company, my pay rate is the same as it is for any new entrant. At my current
rate of pay I am left with a negative balance at the bank after paying my bills and mortgage. My wife suffers from
chronic arthritis (so I’m the only one earning).”
A worker who works two jobs, clocking up over 70 hours a week says, “Even on $18.70 at my main job it’s really difficult to live, working two jobs, I don’t understand how anyone can live on
that. I couldn’t survive on that, I need two jobs to make ends meet.”