Extra $8 won't make Tony's life any easier

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 06:47 27/02/2013
Tony Hall
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ

STRUGGLING: Upper Hutt man Tony Hall says a 25c-an-hour increase in the minimum wage isn't enough.

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When Tony Hunt spoke to The Dominion Post last year, he was struggling to make ends meet on the minimum wage.

Since then, things have only got worse, and he does not expect a 25c-an- hour increase from April to make any difference.

The Government announced yesterday that the minimum wage will rise to $13.75 an hour from April 1.

The means the minimum pay for a 40-hour working week will rise from $540 to $550 before tax. After tax at the 17.5c rate, workers will take home $456 - or $8 more than they do now.

Mr Hunt, 53, from Upper Hutt, is a carer for disabled people. His wife has been unable to work since being injured in an accident.

"I can't take a day off, because I can't afford it," he said yesterday. "I have to keep working . . . I could never go on a benefit."

A 25c rise would not make a difference. "It's nothing - a lollipop, bubblegum.

"We are still going to be struggling, no matter what."

A member of the Service and Food Workers Union, he supports its calls for a "living wage", recently put at $18.40 an hour.

Caregivers are among the lowest-paid workers in the country, but Martin Taylor, chief executive of the Aged Care Association, which represents 550 providers, said the industry could not afford further rises in the minimum wage. "We're an industry which now relies on Government funding and this is another cost they expect us to bear."

He pointed out that, although many workers started on the minimum wage, "a lot of the time" their pay went up after three months. He said the association wanted to raise wages to the levels paid in hospitals, but did not have the funding to do it.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges said the Government had balanced protecting low-wage workers with ensuring that jobs were not lost.

Labour attacked the increase, with spokeswoman Darien Fenton labelling it "paltry" and "miserable".

Both Labour and the Greens said they would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and move towards a living wage if they formed the next Government.

The Maori Party said it wanted the wage to rise to $16 an hour, and the 25c increase was pitiful.

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- The Dominion Post

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