The last couple of episodes of Fair Go have rightly taken aim at a distribution company – Reachmedia – that rips off young kids by paying them peanuts.
Reachmedia (half owned by NZ Post) has been paying young kids sweatshop wages to distribute pamphlets for the likes of the Warehouse, Farmers, Michael Hill Jeweller, and Progressive Enterprises (the company that owns Woolworths and Countdown). And to add insult to injury, over the past few years Reachmedia has been cutting wages.
13-year-old Cassie Cocurullo used to get a around $2 for folding and delivering 100 pamphlets to 100 homes. She now gets a pathetic 50 cents. Cassie is hired as a contractor, rather than as an employee of Reachmedia. This means she’s not entitled to a minimum wage – instead she reckons her wage is about 25 cents an hour. Fair Go suggests that five and a half thousand Reachmedia workers are in the same boat.
So what’s Reachmedia’s excuse? Their CEO Paul Forno told Fair Go:
We think our pay structures are appropriate for the work that’s undertaken… we believe the contract model works successfully for Reachmedia.
Let’s be clear about this: It works well for Reachmedia because they’re getting slave labour out of it. And slave labour sure helps drive up profits. As Cassie said, “it’s like a third world country or something”.
I suppose one could hope that some of Reachmedia’s clients might be prepared to stand up for the contractors. Nope. When approached by Fair Go they all passed the buck too. Fortunately there’s some legislative light at the end of the tunnel for workers in Cassie’s position.
There’s a private member’s bill coming up that aims to ensure contractors are paid at least the minimum wage. Norightturn has a good short description of it. Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party are all in favour. But National, and astonishingly NZ First, aren’t. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised the Nats are supporting a large corporate over a 13 year old kid, but come on NZ First, we know your heart’s in the right place – do the right thing!
Fair Go say they’re going to continue looking into cases, so if you have any info that could help, make sure you contact them. As Kevin Milne put it, these workers “don’t ask for much, but surely they deserve more than Victorian chimney sweep rates.”