Proposed changes to minimum wage calculations may affect
thousands of workers in Dunedin and Otago, the New Zealand
Council of Trade Unions says.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment this week
sent businesses and trade unions a letter outlining a
proposal to include a fortnightly minimum wage rate -
alongside existing weekly, daily and hourly rates - in the
Minimum Wage Order 2014.
Such a change could see thousands of salaried workers at or
near minimum wage level paid less, New Zealand Council of
Trade Unions general counsel Jeff Sissons told the Otago
At present, wages have to be assessed and paid on a weekly
Salaried workers earning the minimum wage have to be paid
$14.25 for every hour they work over 40 hours in a week.
But the proposed changes could see employers avoid paying
workers the extra hours by ''averaging'' their hours during
the fortnight, effectively making them work more than 40
hours one week and cutting their hours the next, he said.
A worker on the minimum wage working 40 hours a week earns
about $29,640 annually.
Census statistics show more than 54,000 people in Dunedin and
a further 30,000 in the rest of Otago earn $30,000 or less
While students, part-time workers, the unemployed,
beneficiaries and stay-at-home parents would be among those,
it showed thousands would be affected by the changes, he
They would hit agricultural and migrant workers particularly
hard. He was concerned for the growing number of Filipino
dairy workers who tended to ''not have a good grasp of their
They might not come from a culture where you stand up for
your rights and often the only person they know is their
''We don't see any positive to this [proposed change] at
all,'' he said.
''The longer the period you allow the minimum wage to apply
over, the worse off the worker is.''
When asked what positive effects the proposed changes would
have on minimum-wage workers, a spokeswoman for Labour
Minister Simon Bridges said: ''This may provide a solution
that balances the needs of employers and employees and allows
existing arrangements to continue.''
Mr Sissons said it created a loophole for employers breaking
''The problem with the existing arrangements is they quite
clearly breach the laws,'' he said.
''I don't think we should support existing arrangements that
breach the law.''
The Labour Party's associate labour spokeswoman, Darien
Fenton, said the Government should raise the minimum wage,
not make changes to benefit low-paying employers.
''Simon Bridges' latest proposal to change the Minimum Wage
Act ... is really about getting minimum-wage workers working
more hours for less pay,'' she said.
The Labour Minister's spokeswoman said no policy decisions
had been decided.
''There is a targeted consultation under way to understand
the extent of the issue and the possible impacts of any
change or of no change,'' she said.
A recent court decision had brought the issue to a head, as
it highlighted ''that arrangements that have been in place
for some time - for example, salaried workers who work more
than 40 hours some weeks and less than 40 hours other weeks,
but get paid the same salary each week - will no longer be
''This is not about leniency for a certain sector,'' she
''The expectation is that employers keep an accurate record
of hours worked and wages paid, and that at least the minimum
wage be paid for the hours worked.
''Nothing being proposed affects that position.''
The consultation finishes on May 16.