Labour leader Phil Goff pledges minimum wage rise

12:51, May 22 2011

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour won't cost jobs, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

Goff announced at his party's annual congress today a Labour government would increase it to $15 from the current $13 an hour, and drew enthusiastic applause from about 500 delegates.

Labour is also promising an $800m boost to research and technology over five years.

Just hours before Goff's minimum wage announcement, Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly had told the congress it should be increased to $15 an hour "as soon as possible" because wages were not rising to meet the rapidly increasing cost of living.

She said the Government's "tax swindle" had widened the take home pay gap between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 by "a massive $135 a week" without stimulating the economy.

Goff said the last increase in the minimum wage, in April this year, was 25 cents an hour to bring it to $13 and it wasn't enough.

"That's not enough for hard working people who are out there cleaning our hospitals, our schools, doing jobs other people would rather not do," he told reporters.

"That's not enough money for them to live on, we've got to give them a living wage."

Goff said an increase to $15 an hour would obviously increase the wage bill for those who were paying their workers the minimum wage.

"I don't think it will see people lose their jobs," he said.

"That threat was made every time we lifted the minimum wage when we were in government and unemployment didn't go up, it went down."

Goff said Labour had made a deliberate decision to lift the minimum wage because it would also stimulate the economy.

"If you want stimulation, give the money to the people who don't have enough to spend, rather than giving it to people at the top who will put it aside and won't be out there spending it and generating demand for goods and services."

He said Labour wouldn't bring back the minimum youth rate, which the previous government abolished and which the ACT party is calling for.

"I won't bring in what (Act leader) Don Brash proposes - that two people, one aged 30 and one aged 16, work beside each other in a fast food store and get different wage rates solely because of their age. That's unfair discrimination."


Labour plans to pay for its boost to research and technology by bringing agriculture back into the emissions trading scheme from 2013.

A new tax credit of 12.5 per cent would cost an average $160m a year but would help get the economy moving again, Goff said.

"It's estimated that areas like health and clean technology could boost our economy by up to $22 billion a year. That kind of potential must be nurtured and encouraged," he said.

He said the cost was essentially a "straight swap" of lost revenue and income from the ETS and was an example of how Labour would pay for every promise it made.

"Agriculture is vital to our economy, but the sector should pay its fair share," he said.

National's delay in bringing agriculture into the ETS was being paid for by other industry and taxpayers.

Labour's policy announcement drew heavy criticism from Federated Farmers.

"He's playing games with the agricultural sector again," Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson told NZPA.

"This is linked with (Labour MP) Stuart Nash's tirade last week about farmers not paying enough tax - it's all designed to discredit the farmers of New Zealand who have had exemplary production statistics for as long as I can remember, completely unrecognised by the Labour Party."

Nicolson said Labour should wake up and realise the role farming played in the economy.

"They talk about an export-led recovery, they talk about agriculture being part of that, and they want to emasculate us," he said.

"I've been leading the charge against this but there's part of me that says 'let it all happen, Mr Goff, and then pick up the pieces of the economy afterwards'."