This is why we need a living wage

Written By: - Date published: 3:25 pm, June 30th, 2016 - 60 comments
Categories: cost of living, employment, minimum wage, wages, workers' rights - Tags: ,

living wage

There was another in what has been a long stream of heartbreaking stories this morning concerning a Porirua family struggling to make ends meet. But this is not a family relying on benefits to survive. Both parents work full time.

From Radio New Zealand:

New statistics this week show the gap between the rich and poor is widening, but the government rejects the idea inequality is rising.

Situa Tangatauli works three cleaning shifts throughout the day, starting at 6am and finishing at 11pm.

Her husband is a security guard working in the afternoon and evenings. They are both on the minimum wage of $15.25.

She said she felt guilty that despite them working the equivalent of two full time jobs, they could not afford to give their two young girls the simplest things.

“My oldest one has joined a basketball team and during the school holidays there was a programme and she had to pay $5 each day,” she said.

“Some days I had to tell her she has to miss this one because I can’t afford to make a proper lunch for you.”

On some days she looks inside her cupboards and all she can offer her children is a biscuit.

“I said to them is it alright and they say ‘mum it’s ok because we know you’ve been working hard’,” she said.

“I know it’s not a proper lunch but they accept what I get for them.”

Situa’s jobs include cleaning two libraries and a toilet.  The libraries are run by the Porirua City Council which regrettably is not a living wage employer.  Of all New Zealand’s territorial authorities only Wellington City Council is and the Councillors had to face the prospect of legal action being taken against them individually when they tried to require contractors dealing with the Council to also be living wage employers.

The situation in Auckland is even worse with the combination of sky high house prices and rampant rental inflation contributing to a crisis where even well paid people are struggling to cope.

And on the flip side senior managers employed by Council are enjoying unprecedented levels of remuneration.  The Auckland Council Chief Executive enjoyed a $60,000 salary increase just before Christmas last year.  Senior manager salaries in the public sector have increased that much that the Remuneration Authority thinks Councillors salaries should be increased by 20% just to maintain relativities.

The response of the Government is regrettable.  This morning on Morning Report Bill English tried to suggest that that there has been no change in poverty levels despite a rampant homelessness problem.  He also tried to suggest that national poverty was all Auckland Council’s fault.  Note to Bill the situation is endemic and nation wide and it is getting worse.

A living wage being paid by Auckland Council is not difficult to achieve.  Catriona McLennan in a recent Herald article has set out how.  All that is required is some political will on the part of the Councillors.

And in the meantime Situa will continue to work three jobs at minimum wage to try and make ends meet.  There has to be a better way.

Reprinted from gregpresland.com.

60 comments on “This is why we need a living wage”

  1. Greg 1

    Cleaners and security guards are often negotiated out of collective agreements, and employed at lower rates by contractors. Especially in large organisations.

    How are Parliaments cleaners fairing who are contracted to a Australian company,
    it would be interesting to see a public record of how that contract was awarded.
    And we know how efficient, and quick this government is with releasing official information requests etc about said contracts. Has the Labour party even bothered to ask about this one, looking after the peeps who clean up their poop.

    I expect that economic goals like a living wage would kick in with wonderful wage increases, when on the back of primary producers higher export volumes with TPPA, and others:
    Not that there is any evidence that this has occurred in the recent past.

    • Contractors that create a middle man in the chain that need to make something, another words, clip the ticket yet companies love it as it is far easier to end a contract rather than worry about troublesome issues like redundancies or wage increases. The down side is due to them clipping the ticket that cost has to come from somewhere, and guess where it comes from. Lower wages for those cleaners. If companies would just employ them direct, there is your cost saving to enable better wages right there.

  2. UncookedSelachimorpha 2

    We are a rich country. There is no need for anyone in NZ to be paid less than $19.80 / hour.

    • Richard McGrath 2.1

      Why not make it an even $100 an hour?

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.1.1

        There is a rationale for the living wage. Your number is provided without any suggested basis.

      • AB 2.1.2

        Reductio ad absurdam is a cheap rhetorical trick not an argument.
        There are dangers and injustices in setting a minimum wage too high, just as there are in allowing it to be to low.

    • bg 2.2

      Simple. Stump up your own money, create your own business and pay your staff whatever you like.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1

        Then stop whining like a wannabe privileged baby and obey employment law like everyone else does. Some of us in the business community have heard of a thing called “ethics”, and have noticed that this government’s policies are hurting our bottom line as well as destroying people’s lives.

        If that lame bullshit is all you’ve got to offer, I’d rather your business fail than put up with any more of your drivel ruining the country.

  3. Bob 3

    I think the title of this post should be “This is why we need a UBI”.

    A legislated living wage would have a major inflationary effect as companies recoup the increased cost via price increases, whereas a UBI would primarily be paid from existing tax income streams.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 3.1

      Their other option is to reconsider their levels of CEO pay and payments to shareholders. Doesn’t have to automatically mean price rises.

      Could simultaneously legislate that no individual salary can exceed X amount and no dividends can be paid out, until all staff in the business are on the living wage or better.

    • OneTrack 3.2

      We can just cut back on the health budget to pay an UBI?

  4. It’s not just what is being paid in wages, it’s also what is being charged for basic necessities such as housing, particularly in Auckland that is creating this type of misery.
    I would like someone to tell me why we pay the prices we do for items in the supermarket like bread, meat, milk, cheese and eggs.
    How do the supermarkets get their prices that they charge us for? Is there anywhere where you can get a breakdown of how much it costs to get milk from the farm to the supermarket in comparison to what the consumer gets charged? If so, I want so see it, if not which I bet my bottom dollar there isn’t then why not? And why are opposition parties not asking these types of questions? Is it similar to the United States in how no one but extreme polictions will talk about how devastating the NAFTA trade deal has been to the American workers? No poliction in NZ will ask the question or find out why we pay the prices we do for basic food items.
    The same goes for council rates, water charges, insurances – housing, contents and car, telephone bills, rent, house prices and anything else a household needs to exist in the NZ economy. Are we all been given a fair deal or is there some greedy corporate involved or and greedy middle people inbetween clipping the ticket? If so, what are we doing about it as these costs are all well in excess of what we are being paid in wages and we need to do something about that. What we do need is more teeth in government to ensure people are not been taken advantage of by greedy corporates.
    Yet the lefts answer to this high living costs vs low wages situation is a sad, sad weak top up with welfare for workers called WFF and let’s not forget you only qualify for it if you have children. What about single people, students or childless couples who are out there trying to make a living? They pay the same for food and receive the same pathetically low wages as those with children but no one seems interested in them. And trust me, they are also struggeling but articles never seem to be published about them or how the pensioner who does not own their own home exists in today’s high sky high price economy. Why do we only hear about the hardship of people with lots of children?
    The real issue to this and the families in this article is lack of jobs, lack of opportunity, bad trade deals like the TPPA, sky high immigration of unskilled workers, horrific house prices created by the huge difference of supply an demand in the main work centres, a weak commerce department that allows supermarkets to charge sky high prices and poor worker representation re wage levels. All these factors have contributed to a low wage economy with basic living costs well out of correlation to what people earn in wages. This has been going on since the early 80s and we desperately need a party that will tackle these issues instead of taking the weak easy lazy option of creating more welfare to try and fix a festering underlying problem of no decent paying jobs. I am sick and tired of it!

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      TheBlackKitten has nailed it.

      Take 75% of the multi-billion dollar profit made from banks, electricity companies, water companies, supermarkets and give it back to the people.

      If you give a full time worker $2/hr more, the land lord will just up the rent by $80/week.

      • Greg 4.1.1

        No, overseas landlords set rental prices increases when they hear John Key announcing his fictional creation of average wage rises.
        And rental companies are creaming it.

        • AsleepWhileWalking 4.1.1.1

          Landlords exploit any form of income, but particularly TAS and Accommodation Supplement. Without these our rents would be substantially lower.

          • Greg 4.1.1.1.1

            Employers exploit kiwisaver payments and working for families rebates to keep wage growth low. Which doesnt compound if you deduct the employers kiwisaver contribution as employers do.
            Its a contribution to workers real incomes falling behind the rises in cost of living, which compound.

            add in the fact money devalues 20%+ every decade.
            Its probably a higher devaluation now if someone does the math.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 4.1.2

        Yes, might need intervention at a number of levels.

        How about the state initiating and promoting a nation-wide non-profit groceries co-op, that then becomes self-funding? Would compete with the ruthless Progressives and Foodstuffs.

        Similarly, the state could support a non-profit banking model.

      • Richard McGrath 4.1.3

        Dead right. Forced increases in wages end up subsidising landlords and others. A better step would be to reduce taxes across the board. Make the first $50k of income tax-free.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha 4.1.3.1

          Reducing taxes usually hurts the poor; has certainly been the case for the tax changes over the last 30 years or so. Your $50k tax free threshold could avoid that, but only if accompanied by an increase in tax on the wealthy, to allow for continued provision of services.

          • Richard McGrath 4.1.3.1.1

            No need to increase taxes on high earners by making the first $50k of income tax-free. It would just stop the churn through various govt departments that trickle the money back down to the low earners.

            • UncookedSelachimorpha 4.1.3.1.1.1

              ….there is a lot wrong with that statement.

              Rather than discussing details with Richard further, I will illustrate his extreme philosophies with quotes from the Libertarianz website, where Richard seems to be party leader (please correct me if this is a different Richard McGrath):

              “Taxation, which is the theft of private property, is morally wrong.”

              “Libertarianz would remove permit laws, occupational licensing laws, ACC levies, health & safety laws and labour laws (such as the minimum wage which increases unemployment).”

              “Education wouldn’t be funded by tax…. Parents would be free to buy the education they choose. Some parents, however, may not have the financial means to provide education for their children. Voluntary charity could provide opportunities for these children as it has in the past.”

    • Greg 4.2

      exports to Australia have increases has orchardists employment costs risen.
      How has the higher export volume added to our standard of living?
      Have you seen the price for the quality fruit in the supermarket?

      Supermarkets do not scale primary produce prices on what it costs at the gate,
      but on the world market rate is set at in New York.
      Its what Fonterra does as well.

    • JNZ 4.3

      Go vegan – don’t buy meat, milk, eggs, or cheese (buy beans, whole grains, and vegetables) and watch your grocery bills plunge and your health soar.

      That is one thing you have control over. The rest is much harder.

  5. fisiani 5

    New statistics this week show the gap between the rich and poor is widening, but the government rejects the idea inequality is rising.

    The gap between rich and poor households remains the same as last year therefore the gap is not rising.
    Better paid jobs usually require better education. Thank goodness we are getting better educated school leavers.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      We need more Masters graduates flipping burgers and filling store shelves

    • Greg 5.2

      70%+ of Uni graduates are now female, care to do a breakdown of what degree’s they are graduating in.

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.1

        why can’t I hear screaming concerns from the gender equity crowd about this?

        • Greg 5.2.1.1

          They will quote figures over a decade + old,

          http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11369770

          Ms McNabb said women now accounted for 76 per cent of tertiary graduates, but the pace of change in universities at the upper tiers was glacial.

          • Colonial Viper 5.2.1.1.1

            A few top jobs lacking for women, while young men in their masses are being left behind at the bottom.

            But let’s focus on what matters to the elite tustling for it at the top of the hierarchy, not what is happening to young men being let down by the education system at the bottom of the pyramid.

            • McFlock 5.2.1.1.1.1

              it’s shocking that for every dollar a woman earns, a man only gets 80c, eh. /sarc

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                I can’t help idly speculating that there’s a talented and successful female chiropractor in Dunedin…

                Am I a bad person?

                • McFlock

                  lol

                  Dunno about chiropractors, but there are lots of talented female doctors and physiotherapists graduating in Dunedin every year 👿

            • Greg 5.2.1.1.1.2

              steady stream of clients for Serco, to make a nice profit from

        • McFlock 5.2.1.2

          probably because as greg’s article points out, the female graduation rate doesn’t appear to trickle up as quickly as your manly yelps would otherwise suggest.

          • Colonial Viper 5.2.1.2.1

            It makes a mockery out of gender equity concerns in education when you boil it down to the balance at elite levels.

            Where’s the campaign to find out why young men are being so badly left behind 3:1 in undergrad studies?

            • McFlock 5.2.1.2.1.1

              lol

              By “elite levels” you mean the current rates of higher study (which are skewed in one direction) rather than the actual supposed fruits of those higher levels of study (which are skewed in the opposite direction).

              Get back to me when the wage gap is non-existant or in the females’ favour.

          • Greg 5.2.1.2.2

            No university Vice Chancellor appointment for a women yet is the gist of the story.

            hmm, odd that aint it,

            Though one appointed to the Auckland museum chief position was an outstanding success.

            http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10632703

    • McFlock 5.3

      The gap is rising, the gap is not rising.

      Are you saying statsNZ are incorrect? Or are you just full of shit?

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 5.3.1

        Nats tend to encourage focus on details of change since last time, measurement methods, definitions etc etc……

        But the big thing is that inequality in NZ is massively too high, regardless of any recent blip up or down or other detail.

  6. Hanswurst 6

    To my mind, English presented two glaring pieces of misinformation, whether deliberate or inadvertent. Firstly, he referenced his administration’s “having to compete” with private interests; his government is the executive and commands a majority in the legislature. It sets the terms of competition. His PM prides himself on being pragmatic, and neoliberal governments have spent decades attacking the very concept of ideology as a form of evil, and yet here (as so often) we have a cabinet minister treating as axiomatic the idea that government is simply another player in a market that, going by how he talks about it, must have been set up by God.

    Secondly, he cites the problem of housing as being one of raising incomes. Housing is not an ownership issue, but an issue of having a roof over your head and four solid walls around you. Nor is the right to occupy a dwelling connected to your being able to earn enough to afford the capital or to pay a market rent. Even if one accepts English’s implicit argument that it is difficult for the government to raise real incomes, that is a separate issue from legislative means to increase access to housing, let alone establish a universal right to adequate housing.

    Both of these statements from English contain great lashings of ideology masquerading as sober and balanced facts. Contrary to what some would have us believe, ideology is a vital part of policymaking, but it needs to be acknowledged and argued, not simply taken as read.

    • Greg 6.1

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tory

      (noun) Chiefly British. Term for individual with conservative ideals and/or membership of the Conservative political party. Typically a member of the privileged élite, typified in Parliament by old-Etonians groomed for Oxbridge and further successes in their well-fed, cosseted, self-indulgent lives. Tories (plural) tend to go through life blissfully unaware of the realities most people face. Underneath all the rhetoric policies are aimed at further creation of wealth amongst the affluent and disdain for classes considered ‘below’ themselves

  7. Hanswurst 7

    Further, English cites the campaign “a couple of elections” back to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, and states that it is now $15.25/hour. Reading that on its own, any reasonable person would take this as a claim that the government had done bugger all to raise the minimum wage in that time, and yet here he is, citing it as evidence that they are working hard to lift wages.

  8. adam 8

    And the wage slaves beg master for some more scraps off the table.

    Pathetic

  9. Tory 9

    To allow for informed debate, why not include total hours worked per week, accommodation supplements paid plus working for families/tax credits?
    It can we’ll be argued low paid workers do earn a living wage, made up from hourly rates plus government payments/initiatives

    • Hanswurst 9.1

      It can well be argued that some low-paid workers don’t earn a living wage, because they are missing out on the standards of food and shelter that our society considers adequate to constitute a living. If the government or any of its proxies wished to make the argument you are theorising about here, they could do it (they have form in releasing such personal income details about those who cause difficulty for them). The fact that they have opted for more wishy-washy lines is far more telling than the fantasy arguments you are conjuring up here would be, even if they were actually advanced in practice.

  10. Tory 10

    Bullsh1t, how do we know they are missing out on anything when the full extent of their income,; salary/wages/Government allowances is not disclosed?

    • McFlock 10.1

      lol
      gotta love the right-wing nanny state. Ignore the obvious so they can obsess over minutae to clear what masquerades as their conscience.

    • save nz 10.2

      @Tory – they are waiting for John Key to reveal his tax returns first.

      But don’t worry, if Paula hears about them, she is bound to leak it.

  11. NoThanks 11

    Before moving towards the living wage, can they confess that they were probably those waggers who didn’t tuck their shirts in and barely finished Year 12 before dropping out? If yes, then that’s just karma because actions have consequences.

  12. save nz 12

    Thanks for this great post.

    Shocking that the bloated CEO structures forced on us by the supercity are now meaning that they are giving themselves massive pay rises and then other councils are expected to match it!!

    At the same time the workers can’t make a living, but they councils are stopping them from getting the pay increase using the same reasoning (others will want it).

    Oh I wonder why inequality is increasing!!

    How about the government and local bodies get the same increase as minimum wages each year, what was it 50 cents per hour?

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