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Why not a Maori minimum wage too?

Written By: - Date published: 12:59 pm, February 24th, 2010 - 58 comments
Categories: act, Satire, unemployment, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

What if we were to change a couple of key words in Roger Douglas’s minimum wage reduction bill?

Maori Minimum Wage Bill Drawn From Ballot

Tuesday, 23 February 2010, 2:24 pm Press Release: ACT New Zealand

The drawing of my Minimum Wage (Mitigation Of Maori Unemployment) Amendment Bill today is a step toward mitigating the high rate of Maori unemployment, which has soared, ACT New Zealand MP Sir Roger Douglas said today.

“Prohibiting employers from paying, for example, $10 per hour to Maori often forces those Maori onto the Unemployment Benefit. The hourly rate on those benefits is around $4-$5 why would we force our Maori to accept $180 a week when they could be earning $400?” Sir Roger said.

“Only a ‘caring’ Labour Party politician would tell Maori they’re better off being dependent on the state with $120 a week than self sufficient on $400 a week.

“Maori unemployment has almost doubled. Our Maori have been priced out of the market they can’t get jobs or work experience, and cannot contribute to our economy. What effect is this having on them?

“While the recession is also impacting on Maori unemployment, this alone cannot explain the surge. More than 75 percent of economists agree that high minimum wages result in job losses with those hit hardest being young and unskilled workers, which disproportionally discribes Maori. After all, as an employer who would you pick if the cost were the same: a Maori with no skills or an non-Maori with more skills?

“My Bill will give the Government the capability to set different rates for Maori. It will ensure that Maori do not have to compete against more experienced and skilled workers at an equal wage for the same job, providing them with more job opportunities,” Sir Roger said.

All Douglas’s facts are still true. What’s good enough for the youth goose is good enough for the Maori gander? No? Why wouldn’t exactly the same logic apply?

Students. Pasifika. Men. High school drop-outs. Singles. People in Northland. They have all experienced spikes in unemployment since mid-2008 along with youth. Why not lower minimum wages for them?

Why not, unless the logic is bullsh*t?

58 comments on “Why not a Maori minimum wage too? ”

  1. toad 1

    Of course it is Act policy to have no minimum wage at all, Z.

    • Duncan 1.1

      Ah, but is it National’s? That’ll be what decides the fate of this bill.

    • big bruv 1.2

      Damn right Toad.

    • Tiger Mountain 1.3

      Why stop there? no wages at all could be good, it is called slavery and is still quite popular in some parts of the world (and NZ prisons). ‘Cur’ Rog really is scum attempting to revisit youth rates in 2010. Tin pot aspirational capitalists that have to exploit young people don’t deserve to operate, the bigger companies and fast food chains that to their credit went with the legislative change on abolishing youth rates will hopefully get a customer backlash too if they try and turn the clock back.

      I shall say zis only vonce! there is nothing noble let alone heroic about barely surviving on the minimum wage, any whimps here such as Big Bruv that claim otherwise are deluded.

  2. Hilary 2

    What is worrying is that it could and did apply to disabled workers who could be paid anything or nothing at all – and were also excluded from union coverage – under the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion legislation. This Act was finally repealed after a long battle by disabled people and their advocates in about 2007. National and Act did not support it.

  3. Camryn 3

    toad – Exactly. Douglas’ overall logic isn’t faulty. Anyone whose output per hour is worth less than the minimum wage is hurt by the minimum wage. A great way to improve their value (working) is ruled out by government labour price control that renders them unprofitable to hire. The only convolution on Douglas’ part is to focus on the youth issue because he knows no-one will tackle the overall minimum wage.

    Hilary – I probably only read biased blogs, but my understanding was that most mentally disabled people immediately lost all their jobs once there was a minimum wage, since their productivity wasn’t very high and it was only worth doing when their main reward was something to do and a feeling of achievement and usefulness.

    • Bright Red 3.1

      “my understanding was that most mentally disabled people immediately lost all their jobs once there was a minimum wage”

      Not true. Not even nearly true. That is completely uninformed.

      • big bruv 3.1.1

        “Not true. Not even nearly true. That is completely uninformed.”

        And you can supply proof of that?

        • Bright Red 3.1.1.1

          I know the sector.

          And you’re the side claiming that A has caused B. You’re the ones who have to provide evidence that B has occured and was caused by A

          • big bruv 3.1.1.1.1

            I do not “know the sector”, all I remember was the way that TVNZ covered the fact that scores of handicapped people were being laid off due to the minimum wage being introduced.

            If you claim this is wrong then you need to provide back up.

            • IrishBill 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Nobody has to do anything you say Bruv. You remind me of some of the communists I used to hang out with as a young man. You’re not ex-SUP are you?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      There’s a minimum cost to going to work. In theory, but not in practice as it’s too low, the minimum wage is representative of those costs. I’m pretty sure Roger Douglas won’t run a business at less than cost so why does he expect workers to supply labour at less than cost?

      Ergo, his logic, and that of pretty much all economists, is faulty.

  4. Camryn 4

    That said, I was pissed off when I was getting $4.00 an hour in the market garden when I was 15 and the “adults” were getting almost double while being only half as fast. I was a 4x better deal. Still, I didn’t need the government to step in… I just had a word with the guy, got a small raise and a lecture on how he got 10 shillings a year when he was my age and was glad of it, and left a few months later for a better job in the local supermarket.

  5. big bruv 5

    Leaving aside the stupidity of the minimum wage for a moment, it is worth looking at what Sir Roger has to say.

    What is the sense of seeing a young man on the dole instead of earning $400 a week?

    • Bright Red 5.1

      false dichotomy. There’s no evidence that the minimum wage is forcing people on to the dole.

      And if you persist in arguing that is the case, you have to explain why the minimum wage for Maori shouldn’t be lowered too.

      • Rex Widerstrom 5.1.1

        That’s not the argument, surely? The argument is (and I’m not advancing this as my opinion, as I’ve seen no data to support it) that a “high” minimum wage for youth is impeding the creation of new jobs which could employ them?

        In other words, the owner of a small business might be willing to take on a young person to perform some task at $n whereas at $n x 2 it becomes unviable. That’s not forcing anyone on to the dole, it’s keeping them there.

        How you’d get data on that I don’t know, other than through a widespread and detailed survey of employers’ hiring needs and intentions, including some hypothetical questions.

        That may have already been done… in which case, excuse my ignorance and could someone perhaps post the results. If it hasn’t, I don’t see how either side of the debate can argue from a position of certainty.

        • Clarke 5.1.1.1

          It’s a good point, although there is another way to look at the problem.

          Douglas seems to be contending in his Bill that more people will be employed if youth rates are abolished. Fine – he’s the one who wants to make the change, so the onus of proof clearly lies with ACT. So they should be able to state – within a margin of error – exactly how many jobs would be created, so that a rational decision can be made about whether the change would be valuable in a macroeconomic sense.

          Of course if they weren’t able to state that number then it would inevitably lead to the conclusion that Douglas’ bill is based on ideology rather than rationality.

          • Rex Widerstrom 5.1.1.1.1

            Having worked for a small party in Parliament I think that’s a very fair comment, but impractical. It’s not reasonable, given the existing level of resourcing, to expect a small party like the Greens, Act or the Maori Party to have that sort of data unless it’s already available someplace.

            I’d like to see the Bill go to the Select Committee (then again I’d like to see every Bill go to a Select Committee, effectively doing away with First Readings) so that groups with the resources – the unions, Chamber of Commerce, BRT etc etc – can do the research and so individuals with worthwhile perspectives (like Camryn above) can enlighten us.

            Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s ideological knee jerk from Douglas. Maybe not. But if, instead of jerking back, we see this as an opportunity to canvas ways to address youth unemployment, we might actually get some way to solving the problem.

            • Clarke 5.1.1.1.1.1

              I very much have the view that parties proposing legislation should “first do no harm” and prove their position with some evidence … but I fully accept that it’s a bit of an unrealistic position. Ah well.

              As far as fixing the problem of youth (or any other form) of unemployment goes, have a read of this (PDF, 3.1MB) – it blew my mind. Actually, it made my brain hurt for some time, but it’s hard to argue with the evidence.

      • big bruv 5.1.2

        No evidence!!!

        I take it you close your eyes and cover your ears when people talk about the massive rise in youth unemployment that just happens to coincide with the abolition of youth rates?

        Stop being an idiot and see Sir Rogers proposal for what it is, a chance to get young people working.

        Nobody has answered my question so I will ask it again, why is it better to have a young man on the dole than have that same young man earning $400 a week?

        • Bright Red 5.1.2.1

          It happened to coincide with the worst recession in half a centrury. We expect youth unemployment to increase faster becuase it is always higher.

        • Bright Red 5.1.2.2

          “Nobody has answered my question so I will ask it again, why is it better to have a young man on the dole than have that same young man earning $400 a week”

          Nobody answered because it is a false dichotomy. It presupposes that either you set the youth rate at $10 an hour or they will all be on the dole. Just not true.

          • dave 5.1.2.2.1

            Bright red – yes you`re correct, its not true. 16-17 year olds cant get the dole. And even if they could they’d be out if they worked 30 hours per week, not 40.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      it is worth looking at what Sir Roger has to say.

      No, really, it isn’t. Quarter of a century after his reforms and we can see that the damage that those reforms have done:

      Telecom is now a basket case
      Power is massively overpriced
      The rich get richer while the poor get poorer increasing poverty

      • luva 5.2.1

        You mean those reforms that no credible party would ever dream of reversing.

        Something tells me the majority of our Parliament, including the Labour caucus, respects what Roger Douglas has to say. This is demonstrated by the fact neither of the two National goverments or the one Labour government since his first reign have thought for a second to even touch his fundamental initiatives.

        The fringe left oppose them, but hey 95% of the population (including the Labour party) have been ignoring them for years and will no doubt ignore them for a few more.

      • V 5.2.2

        Draco,

        A few points.
        1. How do you justify Telecom, as a ‘basket’ case? As far as I’m aware it makes a profit and gainfully employs plenty of NZers. There is competition should you not feel there service is adequate for your requirements.
        2. If you are suggesting power if overpriced, you are telling me that you portend to know what the per kwH price of electricity should be. Please do tell?
        3. While the rich are increasing their wealth faster on a relative basis, I don’t see the poor getting poorer by any means. Look at those in ‘poverty’ today and compare with those in ‘poverty’ 50 years ago and you will note that the available goods and services able to be afforded by those on the lowest incomes are far greater than was the case 50 years ago. It comes down to your poverty definition I guess. If you define the lowest 10% of incomes as poverty, then you will always have poverty, but that isn’t to say that their standard of living can’t increase.

  6. Daniel Miles 6

    Dammit. You’re gonna get all the credit for what I’ve been saying for ages 😛

  7. frog 7

    And me Daniel, although I notice your tweet beat my blog by one day.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    “Students. Pasifika. Men. High school drop-outs. Singles. People in Northland. They have all experienced spikes in unemployment since mid-2008 along with youth. Why not lower minimum wages for them?”

    At last a good idea on “the standard”. A lower entry wage to allow disadvantaged groups the chance to get into the world of work has got to be a good idea. Once they get some experience and work history behind them they will able to get something better paid.

    • Bright Red 8.1

      Dear god, ts. You’re not actually saying that an employer should be allowed to pay a Maori or PI less than a Pakeha for doing the same work are you? Because that’s what different minimum wages means.

      I mean, I know you’re not exactly a genius, but those examples were ways of pointing of the absurdity underlying taking Douglas’s position

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      tsf proving, once again, that he’s away with the fairies.

  9. The Baron 9

    Before I start, may I say I like minimum wages. The concept of a decent payment for any sort of work, even the really shitty ones, works for me.

    But I think this youth question is different. Why? Well I inherently agree with equal pay for equal work – and your analogies are apt, Z. There are however some additional considerations that make youth rates different:

    1. Despite Marty’s analysis, there is evidence that youth employment has been damaged by the cost raise. No, I ain’t gonna provide a link – you know how to use google too you lot. Anyway, its simply logical – if an experienced, mature adult is the same as an inexperienced and immature youth, then who would you choose to employ. In tight times, the kid goes first.

    2. Some youth do not need any further encouragement to leave school. Hell, when I was growing up heaps of people left to go work in the supermarkets and the like. They would clear nearly $200 a week even on the youth rates, which is a fortune when you’re still living at home and 16 years old. While you may say the difference isn’t that great between the two rates, they add up to something pretty impressive for some 16 year olds. We need to encourage people to stay in school – lower youth rates are one way of achieving that.

    3. And unlike those other examples, the impact of this is transitory. Once people grow up a little, they get adult wages. You don’t grow out of the other things you list, Z.

    Soooo where do I stand? I think this would help the youth unemployment problem, with some nice side effects too. I also agree that it is horrible that someone will get paid less for doing the same work. But I’m choosing to favour the former over the latter, because we don’t live in a clean cut world, and the former seems way better to me.

    Make sense to anyone?

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Despite Marty’s analysis, there is evidence that youth employment has been damaged by the cost raise.

      Except that there isn’t.

      Some youth do not need any further encouragement to leave school.

      Some youth have no choice.

      And unlike those other examples, the impact of this is transitory.

      Which makes no difference whatsoever. If people are doing the same work then you pay them the same. After all, it must have the same value.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    Bright Red “Dear god, ts. You’re not actually saying that an employer should be allowed to pay a Maori or PI less than a Pakeha for doing the same work are you? Because that’s what different minimum wages means.”

    Nothing about race etc. Just experience and life history.

    An employer is taking a huge risk employing someone (from whatever background) who may have been unemployed for a long time, unable to hold down a job, or with very little knowledge or experience. If the employer can pay a wage that is more closely related to the current value of the prospective employee, then some of these disadvantaged individuals may actually get some opportunities. If they are not worth the current minimum wage to employers then they won’t get a job at all.

    Which would you prefer? Someone getting paid say $300 working and gaining knowledge, experience, and a good work history. Or would you prefer them to be left on the dole heap indefinitely being a burden on taxpayers and slowly degenerating.

  11. Descendant Of Smith 11

    In many of the reports that came out about firms closing and laying off staff and people losing their jobs the reasons given were very rarely that the youth wages are too high.

    The reasons given were for lack of work, lost contract orders, a reduction in housing / used car sales, less tourists coming here, less people eating out – except apparently at McDonalds and so on.

    If the work wasn’t available are we really suggesting that employers would have kept these youth on for the sake of a few less dollars. For how long another week, another month – probably in most cases not at all. If the work’s not there the work’s not there.

    I struggle to see how paying youth less will create in itself more jobs.

    In addition if the trickle down theory is to be believed reducing their wages should be counter productive – given that most youth spend nearly all their income this should flow on into the community and create more jobs, particularly for youth given their spending habits.

  12. Hilary 12

    Camryn – ‘Mentally disabled’ is a non-category. Do you mean intellectually impaired or mentally ill? – they are quite different.
    Have you ever talked to anyone who had no choice but to work in one of those sheltered workshops, sometimes for as little as 50 cents a week in smoky and unpleasant surroundings doing boring work like putting plastic cutlery into bags for airlines, all day everyday? Basically sweatshops. Union reps not allowed in. With the law change the good providers started to provide proper supported employment or creative day programmes. The bad ones probably went offshore to exploit other disadvantaged workers.

  13. Descendant Of Smith 13

    If they are not worth the current minimum wage to employers then they won’t get a job at all.

    So in your I’m a really good businessman world skilled workers are worth the minimum wage and unskilled workers are worth less than that.

    In a recession wouldn’t businesses be better spending their time reassessing if in actual fact they are any good and looking at ways to improve systems and processes to run more efficiently. Surely if you are a successful business you would have prepared for the recessionary impact that would inevitably come at some point – or do you not understand that there are good and bad years.

    An employee is taking a big risk working for a business like this – they should get paid more just for being brave enough to do so.

  14. tsmithfield 14

    DOS “So in your I’m a really good businessman world skilled workers are worth the minimum wage and unskilled workers are worth less than that.”

    No. A worker is worth the income that can be generated from their activities, or the benefit gained by freeing up other workers to be more productive. If an employer has to take on someone with very little work experience and a dodgy record to boot then there is clearly a substantial risk to this and the worker may not be worth even the minimum wage to the employer. The saying above “equal work deserves equal pay” often does not recognise what “equal work” actually means.

  15. Descendant Of Smith 15

    A worker is worth the income that can be generated from their activities

    If only that was even remotely true. McDonald’s worker’s for instance would get paid more. Given the profits banks make then their front line staff would get massive increases in pay..

    Most executives would get stuff all.

  16. tsmithfield 16

    “If only that was even remotely true. McDonald’s worker’s for instance would get paid more. Given the profits banks make then their front line staff would get massive increases in pay..

    Most executives would get stuff all.”

    Law of supply and demand. Mcdonalds work is designed so that new workers can be trained within 20 minutes. Chief executives have considerably more responsibility than turning over burger patties.
    .

    • IrishBill 16.1

      Interesting, most of the CEO’s I’ve known (and that’s quite a few) have been mediocre to say the least. Which is not to say there hasn’t been the odd stand-out talent but there’s not been a greater ratio of very clever bastards to mediocre minds than I’ve seen on the shop floor.

    • QoT 16.2

      Wow, tsf. Your comment is just breathtaking in its privilege. I mean, it’s not like some munter flipping patties has to do anything like maintain proper hygiene and ensure food safety standards are met. Trifling things, really.

  17. Descendant Of Smith 17

    Your premise was that the worker is worth the income that can be generated from their activities. The activities that bring in the $$ is done by the staff at the front. I’ve never handed my money over to the CEO of McDonalds.

    Indeed McDonald’s system is so down pat – hence the twenty minutes training that is needed – that a CEO / Manager is almost irrelevant. Probably their main role is to somehow stop their low paid staff buggering off for a better paying less menial job.

    Your premise should also ensure that as sales went up then so did staff pay – after all they are generating more revenue. This increase should possibly even be slightly exponential as economies of scale do take effect and you can produce more burgers for less cost.

    Indeed too not all staff should be paid the same as clearly some produce more burgers more efficiently than others, some have a nice smile / welcoming face / good social networks / etc and
    for those reasons have more people want to be served by them. They should clearly get more than the minimum wage.

    This of course doesn’t happen. Business places an arbitrary value on these positions that has little to do in most cases with what someone produces or contributes. These are quite artificial distinctions that have little relevance to actual productivity. Advancement is most often positional or experiential.

  18. tsmithfield 18

    DOS “Indeed too not all staff should be paid the same as clearly some produce more burgers more efficiently than others, some have a nice smile / welcoming face / good social networks / etc and
    for those reasons have more people want to be served by them. They should clearly get more than the minimum wage.”

    Agree with you completely on this point. So, why have a minimum wage that effectively locks out those who are worth less than the minimum wage?

  19. Tiger Mountain 19

    Well smithy have a look on the streets of countries that do not have a reasonable minimum wage, the consequences of existing inequality are obvious even in NZ which does have a minimum, do you want to increase young peoples exploitation? Work related costs such as transport, clothing and food are the same for a 16 year old as an 18 year old. Reinstituting youth rates is retro of the worst kind. Any employer whose business is genuinely at risk over the level of wages this low ($12.75) does not deserve to be trading.

  20. tsmithfield 20

    Tiger “Well smithy have a look on the streets of countries that do not have a reasonable minimum wage, the consequences of existing inequality are obvious even in NZ which does have a minimum, do you want to increase young peoples exploitation?”

    Let me turn that back on you. Are you happy for people to be receiving a pittance on the dole when they could be earning more if it wasn’t for the minimum wage which is locking a lot of people out of employment?

  21. Tiger Mountain 21

    Firstly, a pittance is a pittance, with your logic a job could actually pay less than the dole, which is not liveable in any modern sense. WINZ benefit levels are all available online, it is not a lifestyle option for most. If the dole is so attractive why did numbers drop so low during the last governments term? Answer: there were more actual jobs, plus Labour made it damned difficult and unpleasant for WINZ customers-e.g. “Jobs Jolt’.

    I would need to see reasonable numbers of employers offering actual jobs fronting up and saying that they would hire today if there was no minimum wage to believe your claims. Most of these people would not say this publiclly I am sure. I think it is just mutterings and wishful thinking from people that don’t respect employment law, a civil society or any restrictions on them personally.

    • Tiger Mountain 21.1

      As others have said here, it is about Nationals attitude to ‘Cur’ Rog bill that is significant. According to Darien Fenton on Red Alert this morning

      After Roger Douglas announced his bill to reinstate youth rates, I asked Minister Kate Wilkinson in a written question whether she is in favour of reinstating a minimum youth wage. She answered “no’.

  22. V 22

    “Well smithy have a look on the streets of countries that do not have a reasonable minimum wage”

    Can you elaborate?

  23. Dylan 23

    LOL! This is genius!

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