Maori party co-leader Pita Sharples.
Lifting the minimum wage is a defining issue for the
Maori Party in government, and yesterday's 25 cents and hour
increase falls way short of what the party would be comfortable
with, says co-leader Pita Sharples.
The Government lifted the minimum wage from $12.50 an hour,
saying the increase was in line with the Consumer Price
Index, but the small amount left a bitter taste for many New
"My decision was based on the need to find a balance between
protecting jobs and ensuring a fair wage," Labour Minister
Kate Wilkinson said after announcing the increase.
She said the modest amount would still have an impact on
businesses, especially in the hospitality retail industries,
and would cost employers about $52 million more a year.
Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said the increase
was reasonable, but others such as unions and low-paid
workers have slammed it as a miserly amount that may not even
The Maori Party was critical of the refusal of National and
the ACT Party to support a bigger raise and would continue to
work to "pull these right-wing monetarist policies" back into
balance, Dr Sharples said today.
He said the party had considered $15 should be an "absolute
"We believe an increase to $15 per hour could be phased in
incrementally if necessary, to provide immediate relief,
along with the promise of a brighter future." He said the
party had actively supported policies it believed would
promote economic growth and business development, and also
wanted fairness and equity.
"We have urged our National Party colleagues to get real
about economic recovery. As the economic gloom lifts, we can
see ever more clearly the harsh reality of the working poor."
Dr Sharples said two-thirds of all Maori earned less than the
median wage and that reality was felt as lower educational,
health and social performance by whanau.