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A living wage

Written By: - Date published: 10:34 am, May 23rd, 2012 - 17 comments
Categories: wages - Tags: ,

The Service and Food Workers Union is launching a campaign for a living wage at 12 o’clock today.

The launch is at St Stephen’s Church in Ponsonby, and will be a colourful, musical event with speakers from clergy, budgeting services as well as unions.  They’ll be inviting organisations to sign up to the concept – as most councils in the UK have, and many in the US as well.

The concept of the living wage is making sure that wages cover people’s costs.  Our current minimum wage doesn’t – as is made clear in the Herald article and will be shown for 3 nights on Campbell Live this week.

It’s not an unreasonable ask – any decent employer should want to do this.  So the SFWU will establish a coalition of organisations (churches, budgeting services, pressure groups and other unions) to pressure Government and councils to live up to their good employer obligations, and businesses to get credit with their customers.  People like to know that what they buy was made without increasing poverty.

After inflation, average wages have fallen under John Key’s government.  The minimum wage hasn’t been increased enough to raise people out of poverty.  So we evidently need some external pressure to help.

This campaign should be a good start.

[Update: Campaign site]


17 comments on “A living wage”

  1. Sam Hall 1

    The IMF have advised the UK government that “their”(literal) country is in difficulties

  2. aerobubble 2

    As the meat workers have proved, you need to engage the producers of raw materials and make real statements about the social costs, to get a seat a Key’s class table. Reality.

    A living wage is not possible until farmers are on board and realize they have been vomiting into the wind, and losing when the opportunities to broaden the economy are lost.

    i.e. when we have a living wage in NZ we won’t be dependent on the farm and other primary sectors.

    This is why we need a CGT, to stage a coup against the property developer political block.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Go SFWU!
    The POA and Talley/AFFCO lockouts and resulting organisation and solidarity actions have had several positive spinoffs.

    Apart from frustrating bully boy employer intentions to smash collectivism and reduce workers to individual ‘labour units’ there is a growing realisation that todays voluntary unionists are not some stand alone group of selfish ‘others’, but are in fact community members and parents with a stake in this country like most of the 99%ers.

    In fact the 350,000 or so union members have kept the non union freeloaders afloat to a large extent.
    A Living Wage is an outrageous concept to the Natz and a new one possibly to the half million kiwis on minimum wage or worse. Unite all who can be united and go for it.

    • Olwyn 3.1

      I have just come back from the launch in Jervois Rd, and I have the T shirt to prove it. It was very very heartening – a good sized, enthusiastic crowd, and excellent speakers, Helen Kelly among them. Darien was there. A lively round of “She works hard for the money,” led by a minister, with everyone gyrating and clapping. It felt like the start of something really promising.

  4. jaymam 4

    A living wage is an excellent idea. And if John Key wants NZ to catch up with Australia, how about we have the same minimum wage as them?

    I think a major cost for a household is caused by the high price of land. My small section is valued at several times the value of my house. That is the fault of Councils for disallowing new subdivisions.

    An article in the Herald has an example of a low income household. But they have been paying $500 a week to finance companies for “furniture and other items including two cars”. On a low income I never buy new furniture, and I still never borrow money except for a mortgage on a house.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      That is the fault of Councils for disallowing new subdivisions.

      Or it could be that land is a scarce resource. Also, growing a city outward is far more expensive in terms of council services than growing upwards.

    • Herodotus 4.2

      If property had maintained its “relative” price based on income:price ratio then the current medium wage would suffice being a livable wage (taking that rentals also maintain a similar ratio), as the cost of housing would be something like 30% less than it currently is and this would be reflected in smaller mortgages and servicing costs & rentals. Given that property prices doubled over the 2000-2005, with the bubble starting to re-inflate.
      Pity the housing issue is been left to “Market Forces” to work it out. As many of the issues are govt induced-immigration, ability for banks to loan e.g. Bank capital ratios, and that banks can loan 100% mortgages, and finally that lack of govts. motives to review, amend favorable tax management and inability for the IRD to investigate trading.
      Look at drivers of issues to solve not the symptoms- as by fiddling all that happens is greater unforeseen consequences.

  5. Credit 5

    Saved as a favorite, I love your site!

  6. belladonna 6

    Let’s hope beneficiaries are not forgotten. They are the real poor but are ignored by both National and Labour.

  7. indiana 7

    According to the info in this Herald article: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10807860, the subject earns $240.00 (gross or net, not specified) per week for 35 hours of work, which equates to $6.86 per hour – make you wonder who her employer is – name and shame?.

    The minimum wage is $13.50 per hour, which means she should be earning $472.50 gross per week…I guess that article is not well researched.

    The danger of bringing forward examples of people earning low wages, is that everything about them gets scrutinised to reveal the whole truth, much in the same way rich people are scrutinised when they plead poverty if their business ventures go belly up – the former saviour of the Phoenix for example.

    • Carol 7.1

      It doesn’t say she earns $240.00 per week. It says she’s trying to raise her children on around that amount. The vagueness of the amount (“around”) suggests it’s likely she’s talking about things other than rent.

      • indiana 7.1.1


        “is trying to raise her two young children on around $240 a week, a wage she says is not enough to provide her family with a decent quality of life.”

        This is the sentance from the article…poorly written I agree and does not clarify if this is her total net wage or gross before any expenses.

        The real problem is that the public will want to dig deeper and see the whole truth before making an absolute determination that the wage being earnt is not a livable wage when compared to their own circumstances. This is where the battle of words will be in this campaign. The comments to my post are proof as people are now speculating how much state assistance this example is getting.

        So when the campaigners bring forward their examples of people suffering on low incomes, make sure those example know that their whole lives will need to be exposed including all the good luck and bad luck experiences.

    • Wonker 7.2

      Yes strange figures. If she only earns $240 a week, works more than 20 hours a week, and has two children under ten then WFF payments would total an additional $436 ($22k a year) a week on top of the $240. So she should be receiving around $676 a week. One can only assume the $240 is after rent and some other costs.


      • Wonker 7.2.1

        She’d be getting more WFF if she earns $472 so in total she’d be getting over $1000 a week.

        • Wonker

          stupid wonker you forget to annualise the income! She’d actually be getting less WFF of $242. So would be in roughly the same position.

  8. Phil 8

    Loved the quote from the Auckland Uni academic “no free lunch”.
    Surely that’s the point mister.

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