Fruit worker takes on Bill English over minimum wage

National leader Bill English was left scrambling for words when confronted by a fruit worker while on the campaign trail on Thursday.

Mr English was taking questions from those on the floor when a worker confronted him over the minimum wage, leaving him admitting it would be a "huge challenge" to live on a minimum wage that's increased by $3.76 over nine years.

Watch the full raw video on the NewshubNZ Facebook page.

The National Party has been in power since 2008. The minimum wage in 2008 was $12. It's now $15.75.

Robin Lane works at Kaiaponi Farms in Gisborne.

Her husband worked selling houses in Auckland, but they moved down to Gisborne after the global financial crisis hit. Ms Lane started working night shifts sorting apples and told Newshub she couldn't believe how the workers there could get by on the adult minimum wage.

Fruit worker Robin Lane.
Fruit worker Robin Lane. Photo credit: Newshub.

She said she works sorting apples for "pocket money" and can't understand how the other workers live on it.

Mr English was telling the workers how important they are to the New Zealand economy when Ms Lane told him workers "don't have any power" during negotiations, so they rely on the minimum wage set by the Government.

Bill English defends the minimum wage.
Bill English defends the minimum wage. Photo credit: Newshub.

"When you've got negotiations with your employer about your wage, you don't have any power. Do you know what I mean?" she said to him.

"So if the National Government says, 'The adult minimum wage is going to be $16.50', there's no incentive for a company to raise the wages of their workers if they are doing well."

Mr English replied, saying, "The point you make, I think, is the opposite of what we were talking about before. We will continue to increase the minimum wage."

She interrupted saying, "You've raised it $3.75 over nine years. Now, how would you like it if your hourly rate went up $3.75 over a period of nine years?" 

Mr English said, "Look, it would be quite a challenge. No doubt about that."

"I tell you what. It's a huge challenge," she said.

"That's why we keep these consistent moderate increases flowing through, because that's how the wages, that's how the floor rises," Mr English said.

Newshub.

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