Supermarkets advised not to hire teens

Supermarket employers have been advised not to hire junior staff ahead of minimum wage legislation coming into force next April, says a Picton supermarket owner.

Picton Supervalue owner Casy Smits told National Party leader John Key yesterday that at a meeting Christchurch Progressive Enterprises had advised its supermarkets to stop employing junior staff because of increased pay rates.

The Minimum Wage (New Entrants) Amendment Bill allows a qualifying period of three months or 200 hours work for 16 and 17-year-olds who will then move on to the adult minimum wage.

Smits said they were talking about pay rates of $13.60 an hour.

"A 16-year-old is going to get nearly $14 an hour -- my checkout staff at the moment get about $12 an hour," Smits said.

Key said National had been concerned about the elimination of youth rates which had given employers a reason to hire younger people and give them a chance to get experience. The legislation would mean a lot of young people would not be able to get part-time jobs, he said.

Smits agreed: "We have been advised not to employ them."

Key, who was in Picton on the 19th stop of his 40-town Heartland Tour over nine days, was keen to court the young vote.

In the supermarket he chatted to 18-year-old Megan Coster and 16-year-old Alyssa Watson about their future plans.

Later, Alyssa said, "He's cool." Megan said she would vote National. "He's nice and easy to talk to and tells you the truth -- what you want to hear," she said.

Sue Woodmore asked Key, if National got in, whether he would get rid of the "Smacking Children Bill".

Key told her that National was monitoring cases and if the law did not work, it would repeal it.

Later, Woodmore said: "He has got class -- better than what we've got now. He has believability."

Key gave out dozens of his infamous "Meet John Key" DVDs, finding ribbing about the copyright of Coldplay a useful conversation breaker.

Key said health, law and order and taxes were the main issues that voters had raised with him on the tour, and there was a bit of nervousness about the economy. His advice was to be cautious.

He talked about a mood for political change just as a shopper wearing a red shirt told him he was a Labour supporter thinking of changing to National.

Key is far from tiring of touring.

"I'm really enjoying it," he said.


The Press