Kitchenhand Josilei Swistalski De Oliveira is on a working
holiday from Brazil and says her wage is not enough to live
on in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Unions and community groups have begun to put their money
where their mouths are in the campaign for a living wage -
literally, in the case of former Cabinet minister Laila Harre,
who now co-owns an upmarket Auckland restaurant.
Eleven employers, including six union groups, have been
accredited as the country's first living wage employers,
paying all their employees and contractors at least $18.40 an
hour - a rate that was adjusted for inflation yesterday to
Ms Harre's restaurant, O'Sarracino in Mt Eden Rd, hosted the
announcement of the accreditation system yesterday but still
pays two employees below $18.40. Another director of the
business, Maurizio Piglia, said those two would be paid the
new $18.80 rate by June or July "if the business environment
Kitchenhand Josilei Swistalski De Oliveira, a 27-year-old
Brazilian who is here on a working holiday, said her wage of
$15.50 an hour was not enough to live on in Auckland.
She and her boyfriend, who earns the legal minimum of $13.75
an hour in a hotel, share a three-bedroom city flat with four
other people, paying $730 a week rent between six of them.
"Fruit and vegetables are very expensive in New Zealand. I
can't eat very nice food because I always think about how to
save money," she said.
Ms Harre, a former Alliance MP and unionist who recently
resigned as the Greens' policy director, said she and her
partner, Dr Barry Gribben, made support for the living wage a
condition when they bought into the business in December.
Four of the six staff earn over $18.80 an hour, with only Ms
De Oliveira and a bartender below it.
"We just need to increase volume [customers]," Ms Harre said.
The 11 employers accredited so far include only one
profit-making business, a tiny Titirangi photo printing firm
called Opticmix run by partners Kevin Church and Diana
Yukich, with one employee who had been below $18.40 before
the living wage campaign started last year.
"If a business can't afford to pay the living wage, really it
is questionable how valid the business is to run," Mr Church
Dunedin's North East Valley Normal School, which was also
accredited, said last year it was tightening up in other
areas to lift the wages of about six workers who had been
Researcher the Rev Charles Waldegrave said a 2.2 per cent
rise in the living wage from $18.40 to $18.80 was needed to
keep pace with a 2.1 per cent rise in average wages and
He found that total living costs for the average national
lower-quartile family of two adults and two children rose by
1.1 per cent in the year to last June, from $1038 a week to
$1049.11, but gross wages would need to rise by 4 per cent,
from $18.40 to $19.14 an hour, to offset a clawback of family
tax credits as wages rise.
Labour Minister Simon Bridges said the figure seemed to be
"much more what they feel rather than what good evidence
suggests is right".
He said raising the legal minimum wage to the original figure
of $18.40 would cost employers $2.3 billion a year and wipe
out 24,000 jobs. The Government would announce a new minimum
Living wage employers
Auckland Women's Centre
Council of Trade Unions
North East Valley Normal School
Public Service Association
Service & Food Workers Union
Tertiary Education Union
Vaka Tautua Health Service
Waitakere Union Health Service
- Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald