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PM Rules Out $15 An Hour Minimum Wage This Year

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Wellington, Jan 18 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key has ruled out a minimum wage increase to $15 this year despite 61 percent of New Zealanders supporting the hike in a recent survey.

The New Zealand Herald surveyed 2300 people on the issue: 3.5 percent of respondents said the minimum should be lower than the current $12.50 an hour, 30.5 percent thought it should remain unchanged, 61 percent thought it should go up and 5 percent did not have an opinion.

About 100,000 workers receive the minimum wage, which is reviewed every year and Cabinet is expected to make a decision shortly whether to increase it.

Mr Key said the issue was not on tomorrow's Cabinet agenda but would be discussed "fairly soon".

"The Government has always tried to be fair. We recognise there are about 100,000 people who earn the minimum wage, I think it's important they are able to make ends meet as best possible, but also there's got to be a recognition that where there are increases in wages that they have to be paid for -- we don't want to be threatening people's jobs so there's a balancing act here and that's what the Cabinet will consider," he told Newstalk ZB.

"It won't be $15 in this particular round, that would be an increase of $2.50... and that would just be too significant a hike."

In the midst of a recession last year businesses lobbied against an increase. Employers and Manufacturers' Association (Northern) chief executive Alasdair Thompson suggested to the Herald an increase of between 25c and 50c an hour.

Unite union is currently campaigning to get an immediate rise of the minimum wage to $15 with plans to collect over 300,000 signatures before May 7 on a referendum.

Campaign organiser Joe Carolan said if a fraction of the 61 percent of people who support the hike signed the petition, Unite was confident it would achieve its goal.

"Kiwi workers are struggling to make ends meet on less than $15 per hour, and the concept of a living wage for those who are working hard 40 hours a week is an idea whose time has come."

"But these people are on the bottom of the food chain and should be supported to get an increment."

The Maori, Green and Labour parties all support the $15 level.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard said a rise to $13.75 this year would pave the way for the $15 goal next year. He was concerned the Government may opt for a nil increase.

Mr Mallard said he was pleased to see public support for the increase to $15.

"It is heartening to see that most New Zealanders recognise the struggles faced by those on the minimum wage and support a better standard of living for them," he said in a statement.

"After all, it has been telling us for some time now that the recession is over, it wants to lift productivity and wants to close the wage gap with Australia.

"Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, either in one step if it is prepared to be bold, or over two years, would show it is serious about wanting to close the wage gap as well as sending a strong signal that it wants all New Zealanders, not just those at the top, to share in the fruits of the economic recovery."

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