Shearer stops short of 'living wage' as policy

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
David Shearer
Labour Party leader David Shearer

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A "living wage" of $18.40 per hour was endorsed by Labour Party leader David Shearer yesterday but he stopped short of saying it would be Labour policy.

In a report released yesterday a living wage - the amount needed to provide the basic necessities of life - for New Zealanders was set at $18.40 an hour, well above the $13.50 minimum wage.

Labour Party leader David Shearer said the living wage was something he and the party endorsed. "We would champion a living wage," he said.

But he did not say whether Labour would adopt a policy backing it.

"It might be difficult getting to that point in one hit because we have to be aware of the fiscal considerations but (it is) certainly something we should aspire to."

The wage was calculated as the necessary income for a two-adult, two-child family and is based on both adults working, one full-time and one part-time.

Report author Charles Waldegrave, of the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, said it was about setting an income level that enabled people to live modestly while still contributing to society, rather than simply surviving.

Unions and community groups are campaigning to get employers to adopt a policy by which they work towards all staff earning at least the living wage.

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall said the campaign would work on persuading employers to adopt the living wage rather than seeking legislation to do that.

Mr Shearer said in the last election Labour proposed a minimum wage increase to $15.

"I think that every New Zealander accepts that $18.40 an hour is reasonable for parents to bring up kids," Mr Shearer said.

Mr Shearer was in New Plymouth yesterday with Labour's spokesperson for housing Annette King and Labour MP Andrew Little.

Mr Little hadn't seen the Family Centre report but said an $18.40 living wage would help many families live more comfortably.

"That's still a pretty modest lifestyle but it's a comfortable lifestyle," Mr Little said.

Mr Little said while Taranaki energy sector workers and engineers were supported by healthy pay packets there were sectors which could support employees better.

He felt services industry employers had a social responsibility to ensure staff were paid well enough to comfortably support a family.

"They have a responsibility to make sure that people can live with some degree of dignity."

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