Labour leader David Cunliffe on Maritime Union protest
Reprinted From 3 News July 6, 2014
3 News has learned Labour is planning to lift the minimum wage from $14.25 to $16 an hour in its first year.
Unions have been lobbying Labour on the issue, but the pressure is still on; they want much more.
Labour leader David Cunliffe is comfortably nestled between Labour’s union affiliates.
"Colleagues, comrades – we are part of a broad labour movement," says Mr Cunliffe.
The unions are strong within that movement. They are pushing hard for a jump in the minimum wage.
Labour has already indicated two increases in its first year – one before Christmas from $14.25 to $15 an hour, and today came the details of the second.
"Even that’s starting to look a bit stingy, so we’re looking at a further increase within the first year," says Labour’s labour spokesperson Andrew Little. "I expect it will be up around $16 an hour."
So $16 an hour by April next year – for the unions leaning on Labour, it’s a pay-off, but just a start.
"It needs to be more, above $18, but it certainly would be a big boost," says president of the Auckland Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) Jill Ovens.
"I think the second increase needs to be more than $16; it needs to start moving to two-thirds of the average wage over the term of the Government," says CTU president Helen Kelly.
Two-thirds the average wage is $18.80. It’s also the ideal minimum for Labour’s man in charge of wages.
"It’s a good target to have, yes," says Mr Little.
But it’s a high target, even more than Australia’s minimum wage of $18.10.
"I’m weary of drawing immediate comparisons between New Zealand and Australia – different economic situations," says Australian Labour Party leader Bill Shorten.
Labour’s policy will be announced late this month.
Labour’s $15 minimum wage policy was old; it hadn’t changed for four years. Sixteen dollars will go some way to appeasing workers and unions.
But it has taken a long time to get here and already the pressure is on to go much higher.