Living wage: Not paying fair rates results in more youth crime - E tū union's Michael Wood

  • 02/04/2024

A trade unionist believes paying workers a living wage is mutually beneficial to employees and employers alike. 

The living wage will go up $1.80 this year but Government workers like cleaners and security guards were unclear if they'd get the boost

Michael Wood from E tū union said the "old Kiwi notion" was a "fair day's work for a fair day's pay". 

"There is good evidence that it can benefit employers as well," the former Labour MP said on AM's panel. 

Wood, an ex-Workplace Relations Minister, said companies were more likely to retain fairly-paid employees. 

"They're more likely to stick around, they're more likely to recommend that as somewhere to work, they're more likely to put everything into their job and give the customers a great service." 

According to the Living Wage campaign, Kiwis from September 1 would need a minimum of $27.80 per hour to provide "workers and their families with the basic necessities of life". 

"If you don't pay a fair rate, the Government has to top up with Working for Families, you have more youth crime and all of these other things as well," Wood added. 

Michael Wood.
Michael Wood. Photo credit: AM

But according to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, the best way to lift wages was to grow the economy. 

"New Zealand is in quite a unique position because our minimum wage is very close to our median wage, which is probably one of the highest in the OECD countries," he told AM earlier on Tuesday. 

"What you have to acknowledge is, over the period of the previous Labour Government... the minimum wage went up twice as much as inflation and so we're trying to find that balance of making sure we lift wages but, also, when we've got rising unemployment, that we've got the settings right so that employers will actually take on workers as well. 

"The real question and answer are to grow the economy so that wages are going up... What you don't want to do is load up huge costs onto businesses - or small businesses in particular." 

Luxon's comments come after his Government this week lifted the mandated minimum wage - separate from the voluntary living wage - to $23.15.