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The Green Party’s proposal on essential workers’ pay

Written By: - Date published: 12:19 pm, May 6th, 2020 - 45 comments
Categories: covid-19, greens, Living Wage, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Green Party press release, via Scoop

______________________________________________________________________________

Time to pay essential heroes a decent wage, says Green Party

Wednesday, 6 May 2020, 10:19 am Press Release: Green Party 4-5 minutes


The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how much we rely on our essential workers. The Green Party are proposing a package that ensures they are paid a dignified wage so they do not live in poverty.

Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today:

“Throughout the COVID crisis, we have all relied on the essential workers on the frontline.

“The people who stack shelves, care for our most vulnerable in rest homes, and transport goods around the country, risking their own health in doing so.

“The Green Party believes these heroes deserve to earn enough to live on and is proposing a series of changes to bring essential workers’ pay up to a dignified wage.

“Low-wage essential workers are getting New Zealand through this crisis and continue to do so. They went to work when the rest of us were told to stay away – and people would be horrified to hear many of them barely earn enough to live on.

“People like those working in supermarkets, rest homes, and driving public transport have made their worth clear. They deserve a wage where they can live with dignity. That’s why the Green Party is proposing changesto ensure these heroes are paid fairly.”

Green Party Workplace Relations spokesperson Jan Logie said today:

“Firstly, the Government must bring in legislation to enable Fair Pay Agreements, for people doing essential work like retail, cleaning, security and transport in the private sector. These agreements set minimum employment standards, which are agreed through bargaining between employers and unions.

“Those agreements then become legally-required minimum standards for people working throughout the whole sector.

“The Government should ensure all people working in the broader public sector are paid a decent wage, including contractors, people working for crown entities, and people working for Government-funded community organisations.

Core public service employees have earned a living wage since 2018. However, this does not extend to people employed by crown entities or people whose work is contracted or otherwise funded by the Government, but who are employed by private companies or community organisations.

“We also want a hospitality sector working group established immediately. This would bring employers, unions and Government around the planning table to get the industry on a more sustainable footing going forward,” said Jan Logie.

“The Government has the legislative tools to bring all essential workers up to the living wage. These unsung heroes have made their worth abundantly clear. It’s time to pay them fairly.”

How would it work?

The Green Party is proposing three steps to bring all essential workers’ pay up to a wage that reflects the work they do.

1) Firstly, the Government needs to introduce legislation to enable Fair Pay Agreements as soon as possible. These Agreements will be a set of sector-specific minimum employment standards covering wages and working conditions. Essentially, it sets a fair framework for negotiations between employers and unions, which once agreed upon, become legal requirements for all people working in that sector.

More information on Fair Pay Agreements: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/employment-and-skills/employment-legislation-reviews/fair-pay-agreements/

2) For those working in the public sector, we should make provision to increase pay for the lowest paid public sector workers, including those with jobs funded by the public sector, to ensure everyone is on a living wage.

3) We should set up a hospitality sector working group. This would bring employers, unions and Government around the planning table to get the industry on a more sustainable footing going forward.


45 comments on “The Green Party’s proposal on essential workers’ pay ”

  1. Ad 1

    It's 10 days out from Budget 2020 and the Greens come out with a big uncosted idea?

    Pretty apparent that they lost the budget bid for it, so they resort to electioneering despite being around the Cabinet that votes on the 2020 Budget.

    • weka 1.1

      Half the left are telling them they need to step up more, the other half are slamming them when they do. I reckon they should just do what they want at this stage. Nothing wrong with putting good ideas out there, and we are in an election year. And it's their job to speak up for workers at this time.

      What does 'being around the Cabinet' mean?

      • Ad 1.1.1

        OMG 'being around Cabinet' means they are in government.

        And don't give me that "free to do what they want" horseshit. They are bound by collective responsibility to being in government.

        It goes like this: you put up good ideas in the budget process; some win and some don't, and you accept both as part of Cabinet responsibility. Then the budget is published by the Minister of Finance – that's his role. It's occurred like this for over a century.

        "speaking up for workers" when you don't have the Ministerial portfolio is like Shane Jones issuing a press release about forming a National Park, or Damien O'Connor issuing a release with a big uncosted idea 10 days from budget about the carbon trading regime.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          Lol, given you are ok with the Greens being out of parliament, I can see why this view appeals to you. Sorry that the Greens don't play the game in a way that you approve of, but some of us vote for them precisely because of this.

          They're not inside government in the usual way. It's been a while since I looked at their agreement with Labour, but my understanding is that they have the freedom for non-Ministers to speak outside of collective responsibility (within reason) and in areas that they don't hold portfolios for. This was the trade off for not having cabinet posts. Hence, it's the non-Ministers Davidson and Logie doing this press release. This was discussed a lot when the government was formed, the value in having a co-leader who was not a Minister.

          Further, obviously, but I'll spell it out because why not match the patronising tone, the Greens need to be able to differentiate themselves from Labour in order to stay in parliament. This is easy for them to do on policy, because they are to the left of Labour and it shows, so it's a necessity for them to make this visible in election year. Also, Labour are going to have to make another choice this year, about how much they want to work with the Greens, or not. They can throw their lot in with NZF if that's what they want, but this would be a foolish medium and long term strategy.

          That you think the GP should play the old boys game when patently that will give more power to L/NZF and lessen any power that the Greens have is about your values Ad, not about whether the Greens are doing something wrong. Myself, I thought the press release looked rushed, but it's pretty obvious that with so few MPs doing so much work this year that this is going to be an issue at times.

          Meanwhile, a left wing party just promoted fair wages, and a leftie here is telling them to stfu. SSDD I guess.

        • Incognito 1.1.1.2

          The Green Party is not part of the Labour-NZF coalition Government; they have a Supply and Confidence Agreement with Labour.

          Their three ministers are not even Ministers outside Cabinet but are Support Party Ministers.

          https://dpmc.govt.nz/our-business-units/cabinet-office/ministers-and-their-portfolios/ministerial-list

          The Greens had already started their election campaign, which will be of vital importance in this Election.

  2. Gosman 2

    Once unemployment hits 20 % rather than 15 % I am not sure the extra 5% unemployed will be grateful for the increase in pay their former work colleagues will be getting

    • weka 2.1

      Sounds like your personal values leaking out there Gosman. I'm on a benefit and I support wage increases.

      See my note under your other comment now in OM.

    • left_forward 2.2

      Proving yet again that gratitude is not an area of expertise for you Gos.
      In fact, the qualities that most humans value so much in others, such as gratitude, caring, compassion, love, etc, seem to be entirely missing from everything you say.

    • KJT 2.3

      20% unemployment is not a given.

      But it may be, if National keep talking confidence down, in their desperate attempts to pretend they can run an economy better than, more "leftish" Governments.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    Obviously such workers deserve fair pay. Nothing wrong with advocating the principle. I see nothing specifying what it ought to be. Did the press release deliberately evade that?

    Brave for the Greens to campaign on behalf of a bunch of people who never vote Green? No, foolish, is the response I'm hearing from all directions. Hang on, could be they will make history by transforming all those lower-class non-voters into Green voters. If that happens in the election, we will be obliged to look back and admit it really was an act of magic.

    • weka 3.1

      I see it more as them building on what Turei started. Plus it's consistent with green politics.

      If we're looking at this year's election, then it also matches what Davidson is doing in her area, which includes many low waged workers.

      I would have thought the whole living wage thing fitted the values of urban liberals.

      Whoever gets the non-voters at some point, the Greens clearly need people to switch back from Labour to the Greens this year.

      • Dennis Frank 3.1.1

        Yeah to all that. However it's debatable how many really do get converted by flag-waving. Therefore I predict that the next poll shows no evident bump for the Greens.

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          which bit is the flag waving? Talking about workers' wages?

          • Dennis Frank 3.1.1.1.1

            Yes, it appears to be a play for the votes of that group they mentioned. If not, maybe it was virtue-signalling? Sorry, must not be too cynical. Just hard to see the practical value in the tactic.

            • weka 3.1.1.1.1.1

              The position on wages seems true to their values. Why they're highlighting this at this time, I guess it's because it's part of the ongoing living wage campaign and there have been issues with expecting essential workers to support society but not be properly recompensed for that. Makes sense to have the conversation now.

              • Dennis Frank

                Conversation with who though?? As Ad implied, could be just a knee-jerk response to not getting consensus on the proposal with the other two parties in govt. If so, seems pointless.

                I agreed that essential workers ought to have a living wage. But they don't need Greens to tell them so, do they? Can figure that out themselves without help. Are Jan & Marama peeved that cold, callous Jacinda & Grant wouldn't agree? Or did Winston torpedo the scheme? Why not tell all?

                • weka

                  conversation with the citizens of NZ. Isn't that the point of releasing policy like this?

                  The point isn't to tell essential workers what they need. It's to get policy traction so that decent wages become more possible. This is what political parties do.

                  All that personal stuff, whether true or not, is irrelevant to me. We have no way of knowing. I prefer to focus on the politics.

                  As for the GP not getting what they want and adapting, this is core kaupapa for them. How to both maintain working relationships with Labour and NZF and forging their own path. They're good at this and it's going to be very interesting to see what happens this year given the nature of small parties and what happens to them once in govt.

            • In Vino 3.1.1.1.1.2

              Perhaps we are in one huge mess because far too many people prize their sense of what is practical to the point where they lose focus on what is valuable?

              • Dennis Frank

                I'd agree with that. I did acknowledge the merit of the principle up-thread. However, as one who has participated in political party practices in the past (Greens) I tend to see election year as a time for tactics/strategy/positioning, and so was being a little critical from that perspective…

    • KJT 3.2

      I see it as sticking to a consistent set of principles.

  4. gsays 4

    Excellent news.

    Another way to do this is award rates.

    Used to be a thing before Douglas and co went fully Miley and put their wrecking ball through workers in this country.

    Edit. After all, it is only correcting a failure n the ‘market’, where participants aren’t paid enough to fully partake in society.

  5. Craig H 5

    It's restating Labour policy to remind them of it. I agree with all of it.

  6. Dean Reynolds 6

    It's great to see the Greens moving away from identity politics & focusing on real world issues which will boost their party vote in Setember.

  7. adam 7

    The greens purpose a shift to the left, and labour attacks from the right.

    What wonderful days we live in.

  8. bwaghorn 8

    No mention of freezing workers truck drivers and dare I say it., farm workers.!

    We all kept going .

    • arkie 8.1

      How many freezing workers, truck drivers and farm workers are on minimum wage?

      • Timeforacupoftea 8.1.1

        Unfortunately during the Douglas / Prebble reign freezing workers wages were slashed.

        Farm labourers were never paid bugger all lucky if they received minimum wage may have got a old dunger of a house or hut to live in and knock off when the boss stopped for the night without overtime.

        I hear many truck drivers say they work for minimum wages – a few call into night time radio saying just that.

        Do we ever hear people talking about time and a half and double time pay these days ?

        • arkie 8.1.1.1

          Time and a half and double time still exists, but in my experience only in industries and work places with significant union membership.

        • bwaghorn 8.1.1.2

          4 or 5 years ago a law came in forcing farmers to keep workers hours so they couldnt be paid below minimum wage ,which was a small help . But yip most houses are cold shitty dumps.

    • solkta 8.2

      truck drivers

      The people who stack shelves, care for our most vulnerable in rest homes, and transport goods around the country,

  9. Wayne 9

    In the current circumstances, is anyone going to get any sort of wage increase? I think that is highly unlikely.

    As I have previously said, the challenge will be maintain existing jobs at current wage rates.

    It is almost certain, given that so many will have less money over the next year or so, that prices for all sorts of goods and services will fall. That inevitably affects the incomes of those producing those goods and services.

    For instance, no-one in the state sector, including nurses and teachers, and no matter where they are within it, will get any type of pay increase in the next two years. That was the case in the GFC, and it will be the case now. There will be hundreds of thousands of people who will envy the level of job security that most people in the state sector have.

    I get the impression that Grant Robertson will be quite hard headed about all this. He knows any wage increases in the state sector will automatically increase govt debt. He will already be getting quite worried about how high it is going to get.

    • millsy 9.1

      But that is what you and your mates want.

      A very low wage economy. No pay rises for anyone while rents, power, food and every other price keeps going up.

      People stuck on the same wage for 30 years, like Kristine Bartlett.

      • Pat 9.1.1

        "The result was that a National Expenditure Commission took a razor to government spending. Pensions were cut 30 percent and hospitals had to cut back on the food they provided patients.48 Public service salaries were slashed by between 5 and 12 percent.49 Works expenditure, previously used as an economic booster, fell by around 65 percent in nominal terms between 1931 and 1933.50 These cut-backs extended to the private sector; the government enabled the Court of Arbitration to set private-sector wage rates, provoking a 10 percent cut in nominal terms in May 1931.51 At its peak in 1932, deflation reached 12 percent."

        https://www.rbnz.govt.nz/-/media/reservebank/files/publications/bulletins/2009/2009sep72-3wright-hi-res.pdf

    • weka 9.2

      They're not talking about teachers and nurses Wayne, they're talking about people on minimum wage who can't afford their living costs. Not sure that goods will drop on cost enough to make up for inflated housing costs.

      If wages rise to livable at least two things happen. One is that people have more cash to spend into the productive economy (assuming housing is controlled, which remains to be seen). Two, the cost to the state of providing ambulances at the bottom of the cliff reduces.

      "In the current circumstances, is anyone going to get any sort of wage increase? I think that is highly unlikely."

      One of the first things the government did was raise benefits. Because they understood that poverty would cause problems for beneficiaries in managing the covid response. Likewise, minimum wage causes ongoing issues that create more costs.

      • Herodotus 9.2.1

        Typical headline hunting – Lets give more but forget about what already is provided.

        They forget of the government assistance that is provided to "make up" for this inadequacy: WFF, accomodation supplement, elimination of school donation for the poor, decile funding, community health card etc all introduced to allow (As we are told by those who implemented these policies) to compensate.

        He who gives also takes. The more you earn, the less you are supported by the govt.

        • weka 9.2.1.1

          Who is 'they' in your second sentence?

          • Wayne 9.2.1.1.1

            I presume the "they" is the Green Party who released the proposal.

            Most of the assistance in Herodotus';s comment is aimed at families with children, which is appropriate. A family on a low wage (or even quite reasonable wages) has always required the support of government to get through. In the 1950's and 60's when I was a child, my mother got the Family Benefit, which was absolutely essential for our household.

            The one type of assistance that is more broadly based is the Accommodation Supplement, which is not family based, but applies to everyone who needs it.

            • weka 9.2.1.1.1.1

              It might have meant the Greens, but that would be odd because they're obviously aware of government assistance. The point being that govt assistance + minimum wage =/= enough to live on for many. Housing cost crisis is a big part of that.

    • KJT 9.3

      As fairly recent history has shown, and the experiences of previous recessions, cutting wages at the low end, and cutting Government spending, during a recession, is the worst way of dealing with it. Keynes has been proven, correct.

      Even Bridges gets that. With wanting to pump more money into businesses. Which may not have the desired effect if it simply goes to shareholders, and banks. Especially if wages are cut.

      Robertson certainly does, with, shovel ready, projects.
      As do the Greens, with their projected, sustainability, projects.

      The ideal time also, with excess capacity to mop up.

      Better for everyone, including viable businesses, if the people who spend most of their income on goods and services, have the money.

      Tourism companies, in New Zealand for one example, are going to depend on how much money Kiwi's have to spend, for, at least, the next five years.

      The recession may not be as deep and prolonged as predicted, if we are clever. And NACT doesn’t remove too much confidence in talking expectations down, to get back into power.

      Resilient and effective business owners will survive.

      The ones that depended on low wages, bs and exploitation may go under. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Anthony Rimell 9.4

      Wayne:

      "It is almost certain, given that so many will have less money over the next year or so, that prices for all sorts of goods and services will fall. That inevitably affects the incomes of those producing those goods and services."

      All sorts of goods and services, yes: but not meat ad dairy, it seems… Reports of increasing prices – because the US wants our meat – remind us that yet again international capitalism is primarily concerned with profit before people.

      It would be nice if just for once we fed our own people at low prices ahead of feeding the rest of the world.

    • bwaghorn 9.5

      I bet anything you like the chiefs will still be getting their bonus this year.

      • weka 9.5.1

        or they'll take a symbolic, feel good in a pandemic cut and then back to business once people are looking elsewhere.

  10. Wayne 10

    KJT,

    I don't disagree with any of what you have said. No-one is talking about cutting wages and government spending. National didn't during the GFC. Though we didn't keep every single programme of the Clark government, but we did keep all the big ones including WFF. The deficit (borrowing) got to 8% of GDP in 2010/2011, and remained high for some years. Even by 2017 the debt was higher than we had inherited in 2008, due to both the GFC and the Christchurch earthquake.

    People on this site were complaining that National had increased the debt. As the current govt has found out that is what what happens with massive external shocks. And why it is so essential to have surpluses in the good times, so there is capacity to deal with the next shock.

    In times like this, talk about increasing wages is simply not sensible. The minimum wage is already one of the highest in the world at $18.90 per hour. In the current circumstances for the hospitality industry that is as high as they can afford for workers who are just starting out.

    However, I do think the Andrew Becroft in his article in the Hearld today has some good ideas about supporting children, given that so many families will find that their jobs are gone.

    • KJT 10.1

      I've not been one to have a go about borrowing for the GFC. Except as a stick with National supporters, when they talk about Labours, borrowing.

      I do credit National with not going full, austerity, after the GFC, unlike many others. Maybe the lesson was learned after the, Ruth recession.

      Though less would have been needed without the "tax cuts". QE or borrowing is another decision.

      More housing available in the short term, could decrease rents and debt, putting less pressure on wages. Way to much money goes to banks to push existing asset, especially housing, prices up.

      However businesses demanding lower wages always seems to me an, own goal. As I often repeat, wage earners are also customers.

      Certainly, ours depends on locals having discretionary spending. As does hospitality.

      I’ll read the Beecroft article.

  11. Nic the NZer 11

    "And why it is so essential to have surpluses in the good times, so there is capacity to deal with the next shock."

    Bahahahahahahahaha.

    Would your concerns be put at ease if the RBNZ just wrote off all the government bonds it holds after the $30 billion QE program and then implements more QE and writes that off too and so on. This should rapidly result in little to no government debt what so ever.

    Then you should explain why (if govt debt is such a serious concern) the previous National government didn't implement such a policy after the GFC (at this point it should be clear that they could have). In my opinion this demonstrates that actually govt debt is a non-issue and just something that National party politicians like to talk about to discourage spending on social policy and Labour party politicians like to talk about to encourage tax reform discussions. Of course Wayne has himself made a peculiar art-form of talking about Socialism/Capitalism ratios measured as percentage of govt debt to GDP.

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