Fairness at work and a living wage

Written By: - Date published: 11:57 am, July 21st, 2013 - 7 comments
Categories: class war, Economy, employment, health and safety, minimum wage, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: ,

Fairness at work

In the United Kingdom as in New Zealand there is a developing debate about the need for a living wage.  The Guardian has reported that the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has condemned the low wages of millions of Britons as a “national scandal” and  said that businesses have ignored a moral duty to ensure that all employees are paid enough to live on.

In comments that match the debate that has occurred in New Zealand he states that it is both morally and economically wrong for government to give tacit approval to an approach that lands the state with a huge bill to top up the incomes of the lowest earners.

“The holes in millions of pay cheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of £4bn a year. But why aren’t those who are profiting from their workers paying up? Why is government having to subsidise businesses who don’t pay their employees enough to live on? It is a question we need to answer and act on – fast. The cost of living is rising but wages are not. In the rush for profit, and for high pay at the top, too many companies have forgotten the basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on.”

And why are companies unable to pay a living wage?  It seems locally that there is a race to the bottom and adoption of a brutal economic system where cheapest is best and health and safety concerns are irrelevant.  This week another forestry worker lost his life while on the job.  The Masala chain of restaurants in Auckland has been accused of widespread abuse of underpaid immigrant workers.  There is ongoing concern at the use of migrant workers on farms.  And a local fishing company has required the understanding of the Russian language in a locally advertised job application even though the ship is to fish in New Zealand waters.

The Government is doing its best to make things worse.  As Helen Kelly has said “life is hard enough for many Kiwis at the moment. One of the main problems is that wages are just too low. But the government continues to push through laws that will make it worse for workers. That is why we are strongly opposing recently proposed employment law changes.”

Clearly the Trade Union movement poses a threat to these developments and must be undermined at all costs.  The Employment Relations Amendment Bill is the Government’s latest attempt to do this.  But embarrassingly for the Government a recently released Cabinet Paper states that it is likely that the bill breaches  International Labour Organisation conventions.  The paper records that the 60 day grace period following failed negotiations during which no further negotiations can be initiated is likely to be a breach of  the ILO convention supporting collective bargaining.  Because strike action would be prohibited during this time the paper states that the bill is likely to be also seen as inconsistent with ILO conventions on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise.

Simon Bridges thought that the breaches “may not be significant”.  It is bizarre that a right wing politician who worships the rule of law thinks that breaches of legal obligations can be trivialised in such a way.

Whatever the status of the proposed law changes it appears to be more and more likely that the claim that John Key would love to see wages drop is true.

7 comments on “Fairness at work and a living wage”

  1. maleka

    good article…

  2. McFlock

    It is bizarre that a right wing politician who worships the rule of law thinks that breaches of legal obligations can be trivialised in such a way.

    Not bizarre at all – on Planet Key (Bridges occupies a guest cottage there) “rule of law” has an irregular verb: I made an insignifant deviation in the paperwork, you managed to limit your financial exposure in an unconventional way, and beneficiaries blatantly and with aggravating premeditation chose to steal funds from hard-working NewZealanders rather than get a job.

    He’s perfectly consistent, the smarmy fuckwit.

    • Tim

      Having just read the post – my immediate thought was the same i.e. that Bridges worships the rule of law!
      No!! that “smarmy fuckwit” is only concerned about how existing law can be manipulated, and if he can’t see an easy way to, then it needs changing.

      As we’ve been discussing on Open Mike re immigrant labour – it really is short short short term thinking, and self-defeating at that.
      (What’s become of Key’s last little Sth. American jaunt btw? Anything substantial yet?).

      Maybe what’s needed is to start using the very same narrative and language as is being used against ‘workers’, immigrants et al.
      Unions = bad
      Associations and Federations = good.
      just as
      immigrants arriving by air = good
      immigrants arriving by boat = bad

      How about an Employees Federation and a United Employees Association or an Employees Chamber of Commerce. Maybe even a Federation of Economic Equity. A roundtable or two wouldn’t go amiss

      We’ve been fed a crock of shit, and quite frankly a good many people have swallowed it, not the least of whom are the MSM. Strange really, since it won’t be long before many of their ilk may soon be suffering more cutbacks (as anyone who listened to this morning’s Mediawatch will realise: automated MSM inclusion of offshore-generated ‘articles’ to fill space). Cudda Shudda Wudda.

      I’ll be really interested to see what Key/Joyce’s next ‘trade mission’ brings about. My bet is that they are going to be very surprised if they hang around long enough.

  3. John Ryall

    Spot on post.

    These ERA amendments are driven by the business class who have no moral compass beyond their own bottom lines, no future thinking beyond what profits they can make today and a belief that all beneficiaries of the state should be condemned except themselves.

    During the early part of the 20th century when New Zealand income and wealth inequalities were at the dizzy heights they have reached today, worker marched under banners which said “If blood is the price of your wretched wealth, we have bought it fair”.

    Looking at the legislation that the Government has introduced to reduce workplace rights and cut reduce wages, I think this slogan has regained its importance.

  4. Yes

    Out ogf interest in you introduced living wage would you stop working for family credit if living wage or minimum wage was 20.00

    [lprent: If Yes is a experiment in AI (as has been suggested), then it is pretty clear that it is a bit short of cores and has failed. Ignoring the spelling mistakes (“ogf” == “of”) and the irritating phone/tablet auto-typo (“in” == “if”). It still doesn’t make any sense. I can see why the more intelligent auto-moderator put it in the moderation queue. ]

    [ms: I thought I would let it through because the quality of the typing matched the quality of the argument …]

  5. srylands

    There are some pretty big problems with a “living wage”. The ratio of minimum to median wage is already very high in NZ.


    Until we can lift productivity I would reduce minimum wages to get this ratio down to at least the Australian ratio in the attached table. That means a minimum wage of $11 per hour. It would boost employment and improve incentives to work.

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