Pay your staff more

HAMISH CARDWELL
Last updated 10:38 22/02/2013

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Employers have a "moral imperative" to look at paying their staff more, says a Marlborough social advocate.

Crossroads Charitable Trust spokeswoman Yvonne Dasler said the trust, which provides food for needy Marlborough families, voted unanimously last Thursday to support the Living Wage Aotearoa campaign urging employers to pay their staff at least $18.40.

But Marlborough employers, business and industry representatives spoken to by the Marlborough Express said the wage levels were set by market forces and arbitrarily raising them could have an inflationary effect.

Living Wage Aotearoa research found that $18.40 was the minimum wage necessary for a worker to survive and participate in society. The minimum wage is $13.50.

Mrs Dasler said a lot of people on low wages in Marlborough worked for overseas-owned companies or people on the New Zealand rich list. These employers should invest in the staff who help them earn profits with the "sweat of their brow", she said.

"There is a moral imperative for them to think about raising how much they pay their staff," she said.

The minimum wage was just enough to cover the rent and power, but people needed to have money for one-off costs such as school trips or car repairs, she said. "The negative social effects of low wages is devastating."

Increasing wages would benefit the region and bring more money into the area.

The Marlborough organiser for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), George Hollinsworth, echoed Mrs Dasler's call for groups to get behind the campaign.

It was about dignity and being able to take part in society without the division between those who could and those who could not afford things such as school camps and sports subs, he said.

Restaurant Association Marlborough branch president Marcel Rood said simply hiking up the wages would mean restaurants would have to put up their prices.

He would rather see creative ideas to get all New Zealanders into quality housing than just hiking up the wages, he said.

"I'm totally into an honest wage for an honest day's work, but to just say ‘pump up the wages', that won't work."

It would be a struggle for some restaurants to pay the higher wage rate and could put some of them out business, Mr Rood said.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Brian Dawson said the that market determined the value of labour.

"Business owners will pay employees in line with the value they deliver to the business, balanced against what is sustainable, and what they can afford today and in the future."

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People expect exceptional service and low prices and that places a lot of pressure on businesses, he said.

"They have to balance their employees' needs with their customers' demands."

- The Marlborough Express

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