English backs boost in wages

Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014
Bill English
Fairfax NZ

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Finance Minister Bill English has backed workers' expectations of a pay rise after years of belt tightening, but not all businesses are sure the time is right.

English said yesterday that patient workers should be rewarded for their efforts as the economy picks up a gear.

 ''I think a lot of households will be looking for benefits through more job security, which they haven't had [and] through pay rises, which households haven't had much of through the last three or four years,'' he said.

''So yeah, they have a right to expect to see some of the benefits.''

Businesses spoken to by The Press said the chance of hefty payrises depended on the sector people worked in.

Tom Thomson, managing director of Christchurch's Elastomer Products - the biggest plastic and rubber extrusion company in Australasia - said pay rises were unlikely in the near future as the manufacturing sector continued to feel the aftermath of the earthquakes.

''We're not finding the game particularly easy at the moment ... but it depends what sector you're in.''

He said the company was still in ''hunkering down mode'' but manufacturers aligned with agricultural and dairy sectors would be ''ticking over nicely''.

''We're not seeing that economic growth that everyone is talking about but we're hopeful it's coming. However, at the moment, we would certainly not be as optimistic to say that it's pay rises all round,'' Thomson said.

Owner and director of Hot Damn! Lingerie Boutique Kat McCorkindale said she was ''very optimistic about the retail market in Christchurch''.

''And I certainly agree with the sentiment that any improvements in revenue should be passed down to your staff because if you don't look after them, they'll leave.''

McCorkindale believed it was ''only natural'' for workers to expect their share of economic growth. ''I think if people can afford it then now is the time for pay rises.''

Christchurch woman Shanice Adair, 20, said she had been working as a dispatcher at Transfield Services for two years and had not received a pay review.

''People work hard and it's been a tough few years so yes, I think we deserve a pay rise,'' she said.

Speaking after announcing a May 15 budget date yesterday, English said the Government would shift focus to managing a growing economy, rather than managing a recession.

That meant ''being reasonably careful with our spending'', but there would also be opportunities ''to spread some of the benefits of growth''.

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English said workers could see the signs of an improving economy around them and there were a lot of workplaces where ''the staff gave away their overtime and in fact in a lot of cases they took pay cuts or worked less hours''.

''Now over the last year or two that's been gradually working out of the system but I think there's going to be an expectation, particularly for those people with skills that are in demand, that they will be doing better than zero pay increases.''

He would not put a figure to those expectations but said businesses would find that if they wanted to keep skilled people and be attractive places to work ''then increased pay is going to be part of that package''.

- The Press

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