Union rep slams MP's 'absolutely tone-deaf' pay cut whinge

A Labour MP who complained about his 10 percent pay cut the same week his car broke down "can certainly afford" the expense, a union activist has claimed.

Greg O'Connor, first-term MP for Ōhāriu, posted on Facebook on Saturday night to let followers know his car 'Little Red' - a 1974 Austin 1300 - had broken down.

"It was a bad week to get a 10 percent MP pay cut as those hospital stays aren't cheap," the former president of the New Zealand Police Association wrote, adding that being a member of the Automobile Association was a "great investment". 

O'Connor deleted the post after social media users - including National MP Chris Bishop - called him out for being out of touch. 

Unite Union national director Mike Treen told The AM Show on Monday O'Connor's post was "absolutely tone deaf", considering New Zealand - and the world - is going through perhaps the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"He's getting double what he was getting as a cop," said Treen, referring to O'Connor's former occupation.

Unite represents low-paid workers in industries like fast food and retail. Backbench MPs are paid a base salary of $163,000. 

The Government earlier this year passed legislation to cut ministers' remuneration by 20 percent for six months and other MPs' pay by 10 percent, showing solidarity with the struggles many Kiwis are having. The pay cut didn't kick in until last week though.

"The people I represent were put on 80 percent almost immediately, with no discussion. All of the fast food workers, bang, you're on 80 percent. All of the hotel worker. No discussion."

Mike Treen
Mike Treen. Photo credit: The AM Show

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show it took "too long" for MPs' pay cuts to kick in.

"I think the important thing though is we said we would hold that for six months regardless of when it would start, and we are. 

"The reason it took that long is the law had to be changed - then the people who were in charge of setting our pay levels had to make their determination, they then issued it. Ultimately they've done that now. That will be in place for six months." 

Treen - who has worked for MPs in the past - said they're paid too much, considering some of them are "very useless". He wouldn't say which he thought were useless, but noted former Alliance and Internet Mana leader Laila Harre was not one of them.

"She was a Trojan, clearly. But I also worked with others who were less so."

MPs' pay is set by an independent committee, but Treen dismissed that explanation.

"Rich important people reward other rich important people with important pay. I think New Zealand is a very small country, our parliamentarians, chief executives get paid like they're living in New York. In fact, they get paid higher than they are in Japan or some other countries."

O'Connor didn't respond to Newshub's request for comment on the deleted post, but on Sunday told Facebook followers he had "learned this week to be sparing with irony as not everyone appreciates my humour".

He didn't say how much it cost to fix 'Little Red'.