27 Jul 2012

Greens want public to have say on minimum wage

8:20 pm on 27 July 2012

The Green Party says a bill aimed at raising the minimum wage should at least go to a select committee for consideration - but it's looking unlikely it will.

The private member's bill - sponsored by Labour's David Clark - seeks to raise the minimum wage from $13.50 an hour to $15. It was drawn from the members' ballot yesterday.

While all the opposition parties support the move, the bill needs one more vote to get it to a select committee and further.

But National won't support it and the best prospect for a yes vote, United Future's Peter Dunne, says he won't either, because he's satisfied with the existing process for deciding the minimum wage.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says the bill deserves to get past the first-reading stage and go to select committee where public submissions can be made, because "ordinary New Zealanders have a right to have a say and on something this important they have been locked out of the decision".

Clark not giving up yet

Despite the numbers, Mr Clark says he is not giving up yet. He says $13.50 an hour is not enough for some to make ends meet and put food on the table, and people deserve to earn a living wage for an honest day's work.

He says the amount of the increase is equivalent to what National has put up the minimum wage by in the last four years and it will not break the bank.

Mr Clark plans to lobby Mr Dunne, ACT's John Banks and National MPs for their support.

Prime Minister John Key says by law the Government already reviews the wage every year and balances whether employers would have to shed workers if it goes too high.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says up to 5500 jobs would be lost if it was raised to $15 an hour.

Business New Zealand agrees that a $1.50 increase would stall employment. Chief executive Phil O'Reilly says some firms cannot afford to pay more.

The bill will have its first reading in Parliament later this year.