Gap between lowest and highest paid still stark / Law change breached conventions

8 Jun

New Zealanders will be alarmed at the big gap between the lowest workers’ wages and the top CEO salaries, FIRST Union said today.

Today’s NZ Herald CEO salary survey found average 2011 salaries among those CEOs surveyed was $1.5 million. This is down from 2010 average, but still up nearly $100,000 from 2009.

For many New Zealanders concerned about growing income inequality, the difference between the average worker and their CEO would astonish them, said Maxine Gay, retail secretary for FIRST Union.

“Low wages are one of the biggest drivers of poverty in New Zealand. Workers’ wages are well short of what those at the top of the economic pile are awarding themselves,” she said.

“There is no excuse for families living in damp, cold houses and children going to school without food, when the collective resources to support people are there, but we have such stark differences in income.”

Maxine Gay said in the retail sector, unless workers have come together in a union to lift their wages, most find themselves on or about the minimum wage, and workers in many other service sector industries would be the same.

“To close the gap between the rich and the poor we need to see many more workers having access to collective bargaining with their workmates, which is the most consistently reliable way to lift wages.”

Maxine Gay said National had no plan to reduce income inequality, as evidenced by the minimalist increase to the minimum wage and their signalled approach to reduce employment rights and welfare changes was making things worse.

She said the recently launched Living Wage Aotearoa campaign was a call to action to address poverty and inequality.

Ends.

Proposed labour laws breach international conventions, says union

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall has spoken out against the weakening of collective bargaining

A union leader has told the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that the government’s planned employment law changes will breach international conventions.

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall said New Zealand workers were struggling on the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour.

“The weakening of collective bargaining since the 1980s is a principal cause of New Zealand having one of the fastest growths of income and wealth inequality in the OECD,” he told the ILO conference in Geneva on Thursday (NZT).

“From nearly top of the OECD ranks for income equality in the early 1980s, we have fallen to 23rd out of 30 countries.”

Mr Ryall said proposed labour law changes would make the situation worse.

“These moves will weaken collective bargaining and put barriers in the way of freedom of association,” he said.

“They will breach international conventions.”

The government announced last month it intended introducing legislation allowing employers to walk away from collective bargaining if negotiations weren’t making progress.

It said businesses were being tied up in lengthy disputes – like the Ports of Auckland – which damaged productivity and put their future at risk.

Mr Ryall said the Department of Labour had warned ministers the changes would breach international conventions but they were determined to go ahead anyway.

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