Living wage deal leads to pay boost for thousands of Countdown staff

The increase will come into effect from September.
The increase will come into effect from September. Photo credit: File

Workers at Countdown will soon see a jump in their wages, after the supermarket agreed to give a pay rise to around 15,000 employees.

The move comes after the company struck a deal with FIRST Union guaranteeing workers a living wage.

The deal will see employees who have spent 12 months or more working at the company get an increase from the current pay rate, which is close to the minimum wage of $17.70 an hour, to a living wage of $21.15 an hour.

The increase will come into effect from September next year. 

FIRST Union said the deal came after many months of "tireless" work from all sides.

"Our members are thrilled to have stood together, negotiated together, and held out for a great deal that recognises their hard work and provides a clear pathway to the living wage," said Tali Williams, FIRST Union Secretary for retail, finance and commerce.

According to Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand, the living wage is defined as "the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life."

It is calculated independently by the New Zealand Family Centre Social Policy Unit and is updated each year. 

Michelle Mckenzie, who has worked at Countdown for more than eight years, says the extra money will make a big difference. 

"A wage rise like this means we can spend less time worrying about making ends meet at home, making us less stressed at work and feeling more secure about our futures," she said.

"In my life, it's huge. I have four older kids, and as a family, we can start to do more of the things together that we've sometimes missed out on in the past - $2 or $3 an hour is a really big deal when it comes to living a good life and spending time with your family."

Countdown says it is proud of the change.

"We're proud to be a good employer and ensuring our team can continue to grow their earning ability is a key part of this," says Brett Ashley, the company's general manager operations. 

"We've worked hard with FIRST Union to develop a fair path to more income for our team while also balancing the realities of keeping and creating jobs, and keeping food prices affordable for New Zealanders."

FIRST Union said it hopes the deal will set a precedent for other supermarkets to follow.