Banking sector becomes first to receive living wage accreditation

The banking industry's lowest-paid workers are finally getting boosted to the living wage.

It's the first sector to receive living wage accreditation, meaning everyone is paid at least $21.15 per hour.

The boost would have significant benefits to employers with higher wages leading to higher productivity, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Andrew Little says.

First Union spokesperson Tali Williams says the likes of cleaners and security guards will feel the difference.

"They're the ones who stand to benefit the most from this situation," she told Newshub on Monday. "For all the other bank workers, they were already on living wages because many bank workers are unionised."

Williams said the crucial thing now is making sure people remain employed. Ministry of Social Development figures last week revealed there are more people receiving income support than during the global financial crisis due to COVID-19.

"We know that there's been a lot of, for example, proposals around restructures or closures," Williams said. "It's important for people to be on living wages but also for people to be keeping their job."

It's hoped the banking sector is setting a benchmark for other industries to get living wage accredited. Williams said they need to take notes.

"The one that we are pursuing at the moment that is so important is for the retail sector workers - many retail workers, of course, being essential workers." 

Little agreed it should be an exemplar to other industries.

"Paying fair wages has obvious benefits for employees; it helps individuals and families put food on the table and live in a warm, healthy home, and reduces the need to work long hours just to scrape by," he said on Monday.

"This is a great step for this industry which plays such an important role in the lives of just about everyone."