Fair pay agreement: Government's lowest paid workers to receive $22.75 an hour

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 10 Nov 2021, 3:58PM
Chris Hipkins. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Chris Hipkins. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Fair pay agreement: Government's lowest paid workers to receive $22.75 an hour

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 10 Nov 2021, 3:58PM

Some of the Government's lowest-paid workers including cleaners, caterers and security guards will soon be earning at least the living wage of $22.75 an hour. 

Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning those core Public Service departments and agencies had been directed to ensure the wage was guaranteed in contracts for cleaning, catering and security guards signed or renewed after December 1. 

The move was part of Labour's election manifesto, and continues a push to focus on and lift low wages in the public sector. 

"Cleaners, caterers and security guards on Public Service contracts with third parties do valuable work, but are not always paid at levels that allow them a decent standard of living," Hipkins said. 

Many departments already paid the wage, but today's announcement would guarantee it, he said. 

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said Government agencies had "incredible buying power" and so they were using those levers to ensure people were paid a wage they could live on. 

It comes after a campaign to pay staff working in MIQ facilities the living wage. Previously many staff working at those facilities were earning at or just above minimum wage. 

After a concerted campaign from unions and staff members speaking out, all MIQ 32 facilities now pay their staff the living wage or higher. 

E tū assistant national secretary Annie Newman said the one-off pay increase was great, but it needed to be pegged to wage growth to be more sustainable. 

The next big step for these low-paid workers was for the Government to implement good Fair Pay Agreement legislation, she said. 

"Wages are just one part of the picture. Workers deserve better minimums across all sorts of areas, including training, meaningful contribution to workplace decision making, and health and safety. 

"We are looking forward to the Government bringing their Fair Pay Agreement bill to its First Reading so that E tū members can let them know just how transformative this new system will be." 

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff welcomed the announcement and called on other employers to also seize the opportunity and move their low-paid workers to the living wage. 

"This step is the least that we can do to recognise the important role that these workers have played. It's time for other employers to step up and also deliver a living wage to their low-paid employees". 

Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ chairwoman Gina Lockyer said was a "victory" for those involved in the nearly 10-year campaign. 

Cleaner of over 20 years Mele Peaua, who is contracted to clean at MBIE, said moving to the Living Wage would make a "huge difference" for workers like her and reduce the need to work longer hours to make enough to get by. 

"The Living Wage helps us with the cost of living, and we only need to work eight hours and then go home," said the mother of seven.