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Minimum Wage Review—Factors Considered

Thursday 6 October 2011 (advance copy) Hansard source (external site)

Fenton8. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) Link to this
to the Minister of Labour

What factors are taken into account in considering the minimum wage increase for New Zealand’s lowest paid workers?

RyallHon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) Link to this

FentonDarien Fenton Link to this

Should the review take into account the fact that the Prime Minister has admitted he could not live on the minimum wage, yet Sosefina Masoe, who cleans his office, is struggling to support her family of four on just $13.50 an hour?

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

Yes, I am sure all members in the House would say that those who clean our offices work very, very hard, and we are certainly appreciative of that. This is one of the reasons why the Government is focusing on growing and building a strong, growing economy, because a strong, growing economy will give all New Zealanders the opportunity to benefit in higher wages. As the member knows, eight of the last nine quarters have seen growth in the New Zealand economy.

FentonDarien Fenton Link to this

Does she agree with the Prime Minister, John Key, when he said yesterday that the pay of cleaners is an employment matter, and has she not told him he could improve the pay of cleaners like Jaine Ikurere, who cleans her office, by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour?

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

Yes, she does agree with the Prime Minister, as all Ministers do. What I can say is that under this Government’s stewardship, the New Zealand economy has grown in eight out of the last nine quarters, when the world has been experiencing the most difficult of economic times. This Government remains determined to focus on what is important, and that is a strong, growing economy.

FentonDarien Fenton Link to this

Does she support our parliamentary cleaners being paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour; if so, will she commit to increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers, should her Government be re-elected?

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

The Minister of Labour is not responsible for the pay rates that the cleaners are being paid. What the Minister of Labour is responsible for is being part of a Government that is determined to have a strong, growing economy in New Zealand, which means having good investment in infrastructure, having lower taxes to reward people who work hard, and making sure that red tape and bureaucracy are minimised.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Just before I call the next member, the questioner did actually ask whether the Minister would commit to a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and I do not believe there was much else in the question, apart from referring that to a particular worker. Although the Minister may not be able to commit to that, it would have been helpful to mention it in the answer.

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

There were two questions asked in that one question, and the previous answer addressed the first question. With regard to the second matter, the Minister of Labour’s view would be that a strong, growing economy is very important to the New Zealand economy, because that provides opportunities for workers to have higher pay rates. Right now, this is a Minister of Labour who has increased the minimum wage every year, and I am sure that in further considerations the Minister will be consistent.

BarkerHon Rick Barker Link to this

Does the Minister accept that the fact that Parliament’s cleaners are being paid the rock-bottom minimum wage to clean the offices of those who are on high—and some on skyscraper-high—salaries demonstrates that the current bargaining arrangements are unbalanced and unfair, and that the Government’s regime seems to be consistent with the Old Testament, which says: “To those who have, all shall be given.”?

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

No, I am sure she does not agree with the tenor of that question, and I am sure she also does not agree with, and probably cannot put together, the policy of the Labour Opposition, which announced yesterday that the minimum wage should be permanently set at 60 percent of the average wage.

BarkerHon Rick Barker Link to this

Will the Minister act to resolve the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between Parliament’s cleaners and Parliament, because every Kiwi knows that in the contest between an individual and Parliament, Parliament will win every time, and that this is unfair to Parliament’s cleaners, who are paid less than those who clean in schools and paid less than those who clean in hospitals; if not, why will the Minister not act to fix this injustice?

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

The Minister of Labour is not party to the discussions or the negotiations over those staff members’ wages. That member would be better off taking his concerns to the people who do the negotiations. The fact is that this Minister of Labour is focused on what will benefit all New Zealanders, and that is a strong, growing economy. What will put that all at risk is any potential that that failed party opposite could ever run this country again.

BarkerHon Rick Barker Link to this

Does the Minister agree with Dr Martin Luther King that it is always the right time to do the right thing, and agree that giving our hard-working cleaners a pay rise is the right thing to do and now is the right time to follow the Prime Minister’s lead; and will the Minister “talk to someone important enough” to see whether it can happen?

RyallHon TONY RYALL Link to this

Yes, the Minister agrees with Dr Martin Luther King. It is always the right time to do the right thing, and she knows that on 26 November New Zealanders will do the right thing with the right party—and that is the party on this side of the House.