Tag Archives: Minimum Wage

Poverty pay isn’t inevitable. Look to the hotel cleaners of New York

10 Sep

By Aditya Chakrabortty

The Guardian, Monday 8 September 2014

In the US, the workers are organised. In Britain, even within the same hotel chain, earnings are lower and job insecurity higher

‘In London between 2% and 4% of all hotel workers are in a trade union. About 70% of New York City staff are unionised.’

Back to school time, so let’s start with a quick quiz. The minimum wage in Britain is £6.31 an hour, while in New York it’s $8 an hour, or £4.93. So who do you think’s better paid: a hotel cleaner in London or one in Manhattan? You at the back: stop Googling. At the heart of this question lies one of the most important issues in economics and politics today – who gets paid what, and how. And the answer: New York City wins.

A cleaner on London’s Park Lane will almost certainly be on or around the minimum wage, say £6.31 for each hour. Her counterpart (because, let’s face it, it’s almost always women doing this physically punishing work) on New York’s Park Avenue is likely to be on nearly three times as much: an agreed hourly rate of $28.50, or £17.66.

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Union News to 10/10/12

10 Oct

WORKRIGHTS NZ

 

Demolition derby: National’s approach to solving unemployment by Sue Bradford http://pundit.co.nz/content/demolition-derby-nationals-approach-to-solving-unemployment

Teens hit back over proposed youth wage http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/7794054/Teens-hit-back-over-proposed-youth-wage

Youth wage seen as sending ‘a poor message’ http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbnat/1055361113-youth-wage-seen-as-sending–a-poor-message-

Call for same minimum wage for all workers http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/call-same-minimum-wage-all-workers-video-5124406

Dave Feickert: Dark day as coal mines shuttered http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10837523

Foot chopped off in accident at Port of Tauranga http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10839569

Indian workers keen to unite http://www.indianweekender.co.nz/Pages/ArticleDetails/7/3265/New-Zealand/Indian-workers-keen-to-unite

New Port union deal ‘inferior’ says MU http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/7775653/New-Port-union-deal-inferior-says-MU

Ports demo Teal Park Oct 5 http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151250774682889.519811.596362888&type=1

Govt’s ‘starting out’ wage rubbished http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7787031/Govts-starting-out-wage-rubbished

Lower wages no solution https://unitenews.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/lower-wages-no-solution/

So-called ‘free market’ thrives on the enslavement of others http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/227867/so-called-free-market-thrives-enslavement-others

Helen Kelly on the Health and Safety Taskforce

Union joins international campaign for decent work http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00086/union-joins-international-campaign-for-decent-work.htm

Govt needs to send clear message about migrant work abuse http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1210/S00121/govt-needs-to-send-clear-message-about-migrant-work-abuse.htm

Key’s Film Jobs Being Filled by Migrants http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00081/keys-film-jobs-being-filled-by-migrants.htm

Maritime Union laughs off rival in Auckland port dispute http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838820

The Union Report with Syd Keepa & Laila Harre: Issue 1: How significant a step between Maoridom and the Union movement was the Tauranga hui last month? Issue 2: Solid Energy jobs on the line – what should Government do to protect them? Issue 3: How does publishing National Standards on line help parents make decisions? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM1gX89KdIs&list=UU7Jit_xt-bd0g_Z8CIneUeg

NZ probe into child labour claims http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838723

Korean fishing firm gags crew with ‘peace’ contract http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7779794/Korean-fishing-firm-gags-crew-with-peace-contract

Tiwai workers want Govt intervention http://www.3news.co.nz/Tiwai-workers-want-Govt-intervention/tabid/421/articleID/271703/Default.aspx

Crew who fled fishing boat seek $917,000 http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/7754330/Crew-who-fled-fishing-boat-seek-917-000

POVERTY & WELFARE DEBATE

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: The politicisation of poverty http://www.nzherald.co.nz/best-of-political-analysis/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502734&objectid=10839172

Solutions sought to poverty http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/7777248/Solutions-sought-to-poverty

Protester’s plea to minister http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10839487

Hunger striker fights for kids http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/northland/northern-news/7788321/Hunger-striker-fights-for-kids

Harawira praises hunger striker http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10837346

Sam Kuha facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sam-Kuha-Campaign/466039110107129

Over 57,000 benefits sanctioned http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/top-stories/15079608/over-57-000-benefits-sanctioned/

Nation-wide protests oppose welfare reforms http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/nation-wide-protests-oppose-welfare-reforms-5116865

Matt McCarten: No need to starve yourself, just give poor some more http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10838827

Child Poverty Special report: Searching for a way out http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838726

Six of the best ideas for change http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838701

Jonathan Boston: Three myths about child poverty http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10839028

National Day of Action against Welfare Reforms – Mana Party http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1210/S00107/national-day-of-action-against-welfare-reforms-mana-party.htm

Battle against beneficiary bashing http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7759711/Battle-against-beneficiary-bashing

The latest issue of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services’ newsletter Kete Kupu is now online. Kete Kupu includes information and commentary on a wide range of social service issues and provides updates and commentary on social service policy and practice. Some of the higlights of this September 2012 issue include: Help the Children’s Commissioner do well for our kids; Liability or Citizen? Welfare Reform; Income Inequality Reaches News Heights; Taking Action on Reducing Inequality; Poor Quality Housing is making our children & older people sick; Watch Out For Burnout; Quality of Care in Rest Homes http://www.nzccss.org.nz/uploads/publications/KeteKupu%2024%20%28web%29.pdf

Govt signals it will feed hungry kids http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838730

Homeless problem demands attention http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7779779/Homeless-problem-demands-attention

Business eye on poverty report http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10838658

1400 Kiwis try poverty for a week http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10837292

NZ ECONOMY

EPMU call urgent meeting to tackle job crisis http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10839181

Kim Hill interviews journalist Max Rashbrooke on his upcoming book about the increasing divide between rich and poor in New Zealand – listen to: Max Rashbrooke – social inequality and boarding houses. http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/sat/sat-20121006-0940-max_rashbrooke_-_social_inequality_and_boarding_houses-048.mp3

Income survey shows stagnant incomes for most New Zealand families http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00052/income-survey-shows-stagnant-incomes-for-most-nz-families.htm

Jane Kelsey: Hollywood lays down its own law http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10839218

CTU: New ideas to manage the exchange rate welcomed http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00077/new-ideas-to-manage-the-exchange-rate-welcomed.htm

TPPWatch Action Bulletin #18 – 29 September 2012 http://www.nznotforsale.org/2012/10/01/tppwatch-action-bulletin-18-29-september-2012/

Aus banks making more money from Kiwis – Greens http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/7773762/Aus-banks-making-more-money-from-Kiwis-Greens

So-called ‘free market’ thrives on the enslavement of others http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/227867/so-called-free-market-thrives-enslavement-others

The case for Financial Transaction Taxes in NZ: A FACT SHEET http://www.keepandshare.com/doc/3084113/the-case-for-financial-transaction-taxes-in-nz-pdf-august-18-2011-5-28-pm-454k?da=y

Question 15: Why do big business and the government want to cut welfare spending?

1 Oct

Big business wants to cut the costs of welfare for two reasons. Firstly, benefits above the barest minimum are seen as a barrier to lowering wages. The costs of welfare are also seen as a barrier to the government’s programme of cutting taxes on business and the rich. Cutting social welfare and cutting taxes for the rich usually go hand in hand.

Protests against benefit cuts in 2012 that echo those of the early 1990s

In 1991 the then Minister of Social Welfare Jenny Shipley blamed “high” benefits for making it difficult to lower wages. Explaining her support for benefit cuts she claimed: “Benefit payments have been high enough compared to wages that for many people there has been little financial encouragement to take on paid work and employers have been unable to attract workers at rates that would maintain the viability of their business.” Commenting on what basis the benefit levels were decided she said: “Quite frankly, the research I rely on is the marketplace. If the marketplace cannot pay, there is no such thing as an arbitrary, isolated, adequacy level.”

The current government is also testing the water to impose time limits on benefits by forcing people to reapply after one year. Business Roundtable chairman Douglas Myers told the HR Nicholls Society in Melbourne in 1992: “The absence of any time-limit on the dole (following which people might be obliged to undertake training or qualify for restricted assistance) reduces the pressure on wages to adjust to competitive pressures.”

By targeting the most vulnerable the government hopes to get support for large scale cuts to basic welfare for everyone. They can then use those cuts to finance tax cuts for business and the rich. And they are happy to lie to achieve that goal. John Key claimed in February 2010 that the government would save $10 million over their lifetime if 100 sole parent beneficiaries were moved off benefits and into work. In March 2010 he upped the ante and claimed that getting 5 percent of DPB recipients (around 2150 sole parents) with a child over six off the benefit would save $200 million. This calculation assumed the full cost of DPB over another 6.5 years on the DPB. This number doesn’t actually match time usually spent on the DPB. What he also “forgot” is that nearly exactly the same amount would be spent or lost on Working For Families, In work Tax benefits, child care subsidies, payments from the other parent (which goes to the State) and the like if (as can be assumed) they work 20 or more hours a week. Working for Families alone would cost $170 million over the 6.5 years. That’s the way our benefit/wage/tax system is set up. The biggest disincentive to working is the 100% marginal tax rates for income earned by beneficiaries over $80 a week. The proposed increase in this level to $100 (for those on the DPB and invalids benefits only) will do very little remove the real disincentives that exist to working more hours while transitioning off a benefit. This $20 increase is the first increase in the limit in two decades!

People on unemployment and sickness benefits will still only be able to earn $80 a week before their benefits are reduced by 70 cents for every dollar they earn. Promising to allow beneficiaries to earn up to $100 a week before their benefit is affected was one of the only good parts of National’s pre-election policy and they have reneged on it. National’s 2008 Benefits Policy Backgrounder notes: “After paying tax on their extra income, and losing part of their benefit, beneficiaries can be in a position where they are losing up to 92 cents of every additional dollar they earn. This is a disincentive for people to work even a few hours a week.” The law change introduced by National will force sickness and unemployment beneficiaries to do exactly that.

As the economist Susan St John commented when releasing these calculations: “Reminiscent of the welfare attacks of the early 1990s, there is a disturbing lack of empathy for the hardship endured by the people who cannot work or who can only work part-time while on a benefit. Many are sole parents already carrying a huge load of caregiving work, others suffer ill-health that makes them unsuited to full-time or even any work. Then there are the alarming numbers of young people who are now pounding at the doors of tertiary institutes as the job market fails to absorb their growing numbers.”

The intrusive and punitive work test regime will set up a costly new layer of bureaucracy to police those forced onto benefits by an economic system that has failed to create enough jobs. Solo mothers on the domestic purposes benefit will be expected to work a minimum 15 hours a week if their child is over the six. For some reason Widows are exempt from this requirement even if they have no dependent children – probably reflecting the governments elitist concept of deserving and undeserving poor. If you husband drops dead you are “deserving” and won’t be work tested. If you are abandoned by a violent husband, or get pregnant outside of a good middle class family – you are “undeserving”. Sickness beneficiaries will also be assessed for part-time work and required to seek work if deemed able to work at least 15 hours a week. The package also offers case managers a new range of penalties, including cutting payments by 50 percent and suspension of payments in full. The requirement that sickness beneficiaries must present medical certificates at four, eight, thirteen and 52 weeks to verify their condition will impose considerable extra costs on everyone now on a sickness benefit, mindful that a full examination with blood tests can easily cost nearly $100 a time.

(Part of a series of extracts from “Exposing Right Wing Lies” by Mike Treen, Unite National Director)

Question 13: Isn’t it necessary for there to be a big gap between benefit levels and wages to encourage people to get jobs?

20 Sep

This ignores the reality that during the decades of the 1960s and 70s benefits were higher than they are today relative to the average wage, yet the numbers on any sort of benefit other than for old age was tiny.

A Labour Department report notes that “On 31 March 1952, only two people were receiving the Unemployment Benefit, the lowest end-of-year number in the post-war period. The first substantial rise was in 1967/68, when numbers jumped from 230 to 4,424 before dropping in subsequent years. The number jumped again ten years later, rising from 3,651 to 17,497 in 1978. It has risen continuously since (apart from a pause in the mid 1980s) to a peak of 181,236 on 30 June 1993.” During the entire period of very low unemployment benefits were significantly higher as a percentage of the average wage than they are today.

The fact there is no evidence to connect the level of benefits to people’s willingness to work was confirmed in a 1988 study on the DPB by the Social Welfare Department. It noted that numbers on the benefit in New Zealand had risen at a time when its value fell in relation to the average female wage. It also explained that Sweden had the highest proportion of working mothers (86 percent) and also the highest benefit levels. “It appears the Swedish solo mothers do not require a great financial incentive to take up employment, only sufficient reason to do so.” A central difference between Sweden and New Zealand is the broad availability of affordable, quality childcare, which remains a central barrier to sole parents working in New Zealand.

If there was ever a scene which confirmed that there is nothing voluntary about being unemployed it was the sight in January of 2500 workers lining up at dawn for minimum wage jobs on offer at Countdown in Manukau City in January 2010.

Jobless queue outside Countdown store in Manukau, Auckland

(Part of a series of extracts from “Exposing Right Wing Lies” by Mike Treen, Unite National Director)

Burger King worker on minimum wage for 10 years

26 Aug

SUNDAY STAR TIMES 26/8/12

CHARLES ANDERSON AND MICHELLE COOKE

Some Burger King employees say they have been working for up to 10 years on the minimum wage without receiving any performance or service-related pay rises.

One 57-year-old worker who has worked at the fast-food chain for the past six years called it “disgusting” and “demoralising”.

“I feel it’s not fair,” she said. “I know the ropes, I know what has to be done yet a kid comes in and gets paid the same as me.”

Another worker said he had worked for a Wellington Burger King for 10 years without a company-instigated pay rise.

On April 1, when the minimum wage went up to $13.50 from $13, it is alleged many workers also lost a margin they were earning above the minimum wage. They were told they had to to earn back their right to that margin by completing “module” training. It is understood staff are being told they need to do the training in their own time.

The female worker said it could take months to complete all the modules and at the end of it there was no guarantee of the pay rise.

“You get the feeling the managers are all laughing at us,” she said.

Another worker said when the minimum wage went up he lost his extra entitlement of 25 cents on top of the previous minimum wage.

“I have no say in it. They say in my contract that whatever they say goes.”

The allegations come in the wake of complaints by workers’ union Unite against the company.

Burger King has applied to the Employment Relations Authority seeking an injunction to stop Unite from organising teach-ins at its stores about worker rights.

Unite national director Mike Treen said about 200 people had been compelled to quit the union over the past three months with members’ hours being changed or staff told they wouldn’t be promoted if they didn’t resign.

“This was done through bullying and pressure.”

Last year, Dunedin Burger King worker Julie Tyler faced disciplinary action over a comment she wrote on a Facebook page saying the company underpaid and overworked its employees.

She eventually kept her job.

Burger King spokeswoman Rachel Allison said Burger King would investigate any allegation of bullying.

Massey University’s Dr Bevan Catley said a number of cases involving bullying in the workplace, including allegations against staff at Burger King, Auckland Council and Building and Housing had put a spotlight on the need for tighter regulation. “There is a clear need for better information for employers about the nature of bullying, its impacts, and how to manage it. Too often good staff have no option but to quit while the bully remains protected by top management,” Catley said.

Burger King says it’s a responsible employer which cares about employees. Allison said she encouraged any employee with a pay issue to lodge a formal complaint.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/7550418/Burger-King-worker-on-minimum-wage-for-10-years

BK worker Julie Tyler and supporters outside Belfast, Dunedin store

Burger King Teach-In, Auckland, August 19, 2012

21 Aug

Burger King Teach-In, Auckland, 2012-08-19 Part 1 of 3 (Mike Treen)

Burger King Teach-In, Auckland, 2012-08-19 Part 2 of 3 (Mike Treen)

Burger King Teach-In, Auckland, 2012-08-19 Part 3 of 3 (Joe Carolan)

Burger King Protest 2012-08-19 Part 1 of 2 (Picket line chants)

Burger King Protest 2012-08-19 Part 2 of 2 (Jerry Prakash, Darien Fenton, Barry Kaloti, Lynette Fray)

Unite KFC delegate Jerry Prakash, Labour MP Darien Fenton, Barry Kaloti from the Baghat Singh society, and Lynette Fray, BK member assaulted by a manager at a BK store.

Union steps up fight against Burger King (Radio Live)

20 Aug

“It’s a PR disaster says law specialist”


Mike Treen speaks to teach-in outside BK store in Queen St, Auckland

The Unite Union has stepping up its fight against fast food chain Burger King.

About 50 protesters picketed outside a store in Auckland yesterday claiming the company is putting pressure on workers to leave the union.

Employment law specialist Geoff O’Sullivan says it’s a PR disaster.

“It’s one thing to be seen as either pro or anti-union but it would be quite another thing to be seen as having taken active steps to discourage membership or in fact to encourage people to leave the union,” says Mr O’Sullivan.

The Unite Union has filed legal proceedings with the Employment Relations Authority, accusing Burger King of denying workers their rights by keeping them on minimum wages and exploiting migrant workers.

National director Mike Treen says around 200 people have been compelled to quit the union in the past three months. “This was done through bullying and pressure. In some cases people were kept in a room for an hour or more and in other cases they were told they would not ever get promoted at Burger King,” says Mr Treen.

Burger King says it’s a responsible employer which cares about employees, but would prefer a constructive discussion with Unite Union rather than airing concerns through the media.

RadioLIVE/3 News

Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Union-steps-up-fight-against-Burger-King/tabid/423/articleID/265981/Default.aspx#ixzz2428OnHO8

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