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Woes of low wage felt by family

SARAH ARGYLE
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2014
’Ofa Ta’ufo’ou
Sarah Argyle

WORRYING WAGES: ’Ofa Ta’ufo’ou works ‘‘like an animal’’ but still struggles to make ends meet.

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Father of two 'Ofa Ta'ufo'ou can't spend more than $100 a week to feed his family.

That's breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks - the works. Any more and the Birkdale resident breaks the household budget.

The 43-year-old works "like an animal" for at least 40 hours a week and still struggles to make ends meet.

"At the moment I can't afford to take my girls to the movies. So I have to ask: Who has failed my family? The system has.

"And I'm not the only one struggling. A lot of people in the community can't function as a family because of their finances."

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The community worker says the problem is nationwide and something must be done.

"We need to push people in power to do something about the poverty in this country. People are working like animals just so they can pay the basics."

Ta'ufo'ou said savings is not a word in his vocabulary.

"I work so hard and can't save any of it. My wife and I budget every single cent."

Their combined fortnightly income is $2000, nearly half of which is spent on rent.

Humans should live in dignity, he said.

"This is a human rights issue. Everyone deserves to live like a human instead of spending all their time worrying about money."

Ta'ufo'ou supports the Living Wage Movement that calls on the Government, employers and society to strive for a minimum wage of $18.80 an hour to reduce inequality and poverty.

He has an active role in the Service and Food Workers Union that supports the campaign. He chairs the Pacific Island committee and is a member of the union's regional organising committee and the national executive committee.   

Living Wage volunteer Wende Jowsey said the gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand is rapidly growing.

"This movement is about making sure everyone gets a fair go. The minimum wage is too low for the cost of living. I have an obligation to give something back because my children have enough to eat."

She said one in four children in New Zealand are living in poverty and in an election year addressing poverty should be at the forefront.

But Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman said Treasury figures show if the minimum wage was raised to $18.25 an hour, 21,000 jobs would be lost.

"We know it's not easy for people on a low wage but the focus has to be getting people into work. In the last year 83,000 jobs have been created and 8600 solo mothers have come off welfare.

"We have to do what we can to strengthen the economy but raising the minimum wage to a certain level is not the answer."

NOTE: This story has been edited since it was first published to recognise Mr Ta'ufo'ou's involvement with the union and its campaign for the living wage. The headline has also been edited to better reflect the contents of the story.

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