I still get a newspaper delivered to my home. In fact I get two. I love them.
There’s nothing like getting breakfast ready, making a pot of coffee and sitting down and turning the pages. Somehow it’s when you’re turning paper that stories seem to pop out at you and you read something you didn’t expect.
This morning it was no different and what I can honestly say is that I didn’t expect a story like this.
A woman with a disability is being paid $2.30 an hour to untangle Air New Zealand earphones and it’s completely legal. I read that and just about choked. That’s 18.40 for an 8 hour day when the minimum wage is now 17.70 an hour.
The woman, who is blind, says her pay barely pays her costs for getting to and fro from work. No kidding! So why does she do it? To "build confidence" and "have some self worth". Well I hope she finds it because her employer thinks she’s worth almost nothing.
She is employed by Altus Enterprises who specialise in providing work for disabled people. So how can they pay so low? Under the Labour laws you can apply for a minimum wage exemption. According to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 975 minimum wage exemptions are currently issued for businesses that employ disabled people.
Employers often argue that this is supplementary to a disability benefit. Which is actually none of their business. And for the record this woman doesn’t get a benefit and this is her only income which shoots that argument out of the water.
Why is this government not rushing to fix it. Well if the 1000 minimum wage exempted were suddenly moved to the minimum wage the fear is that the jobs will disappear. But then again you have to argue that any job that can only afford to pay a human being 2.30 an hour in 2019 New Zealand then the job is not worth doing in the first place.
This is a logic trap that disabled employers have fallen into and using it they are treating their employees with complete disdain.
Air New Zealand, who contract Altus for their earphone untangling, had no idea or influence over the pay. But right now they must be feeling like usurers whether it was their fault or not. And it's not a good headline for the brand.
On another note, why on earth are we still employing people for the mind numbingly banal job of untangling headphone wires?
On the few occasions I’ve travelled on a flight where headphones are given out I’ve marvelled at the waste. The cost of the headphone itself. The cost of sanitising the ear pads. The soft plastic bag that each one is wrapped in. I’ve often thought that in this day and age you could provide your own headphones. I mean really? Is there really anyone who demands airline headphones.
Bring your own and help save the planet while cruising at 30,000 feet and burning tonnes of avgas.