Unions back Green wage policy

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2014
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff.co.nz

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman on the campaign trail in Cuba Mall.

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Major unions are backing Green party proposals to lift the minimum wage by almost $4 and pay public servants at least $18.80 an hour.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly and Service and Food Workers Union industry leader Alastair Duncan endorsed the policy launch yesterday.

The Public Service Association later backed the package, saying it would benefit the 58,000 workers it represents.

Wooing the unions – which are traditionally associated with Labour – is a major coup for the Greens.

In Government, the Greens would immediately put up the minimum wage to $15, and then by $1 every year to $18 by 2017. Core public servants would get the Living Wage of $18.80 an hour, the amount new contractors would also be required to pay their staff.  

Although the wage hike would cost $1.1 billion over three years, the party says the tax take on higher wages would actually boost government coffers by $700 million.

The Greens also want to pass a law ensuring workers get a redundancy package of at least four weeks.

To tackle income inequality and the gender pay gap, companies would be required to disclose pay rates for male and female employees and large publicly-listed firms would also have to report on pay ratios.  

Kelly, whose organisation represents around 350,000 workers, also supports Labour’s policy to raise the minimum wage to $16.25.

‘‘The Greens are saying $16 next year, Labour $16.25. But what the Greens are saying is an extra dollar a year to $18 an hour and that is also very optimistic.’’ 

She praised a commitment to strengthen collective bargaining and said the minimum redundancy package is ‘‘necessary.’’

The SFWU represents 22,000 workers. Duncan said the package was ‘‘good for New Zealand.’’

But Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly said it would cost jobs because it would ‘‘significantly’’ add to employers’ expenses and risks.

National’s economic development spokesman Steven Joyce said the plan ‘‘doesn’t wash as business everywhere would lay off staff and not take on new staff.’’ 

But Greens co-leader Metiria Turei defended the policy saying employers would benefit from happier, more productive workers.


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