9 Feb 2023

'The struggle is real' - Auckland cleaner explains life on minimum wage

From Checkpoint, 5:29 pm on 9 February 2023
Generic money.

Generic money. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"The struggle is real out here," an Aucklander who works as a cleaner on the minimum wage says.

She is welcoming the $1.50 an hour bump for Aotearoa's lowest earners.

The government yesterday announced the minimum wage will go to $22.70 an hour from April, still trailing the living wage of $23.65.

Aucklander Telesia, her husband and son are all on the minimum wage. That sometimes meant choosing between food and paying the power bill on time, she said.

Their weekly rent is $595. 

"We are hoping for the living wage, but hey, that's [the minimum wage increase] better than nothing. Anything counts because you know the price of food, petrol to get to work, car maintenance and things like that." 

Telesia said she was paid fortnightly and when considering how to spend it she made putting food on the table for her family a priority. This meant she would have to approach companies to ask if she could make late payments for other bills. 

She never filled up her car because she needed to have money put by to pay for other essentials. Sometimes, the couple risked driving without a warrant and hoped they did not get "busted".

"It's just a risk that we have to take to be able to get by every week." 

They could not afford to have it insured either. 

She said trying to make ends meet was a constant struggle and the current cost of living was "ridiculous". 

While the extra $1.50 an hour would make a bit of a difference, her preference would family members to receive the living wage so that their lives could be a bit more "comfortable". 

When told some business owners did not favour the new increase or paying the living wage, because they could not afford it, Telesia appealed to them to be "kind-hearted" and recognise that people like her found it difficult to provide food and shelter for their families. 

"I'm kind of hoping that they would understand the struggle is real out here."