Wage cut panned by youth

By Amy McGillivray

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Industry experts say changes to the youth wage are likely to have a minimal impact in the Western Bay but young people are against the move.

Details of the changes were announced yesterday and come into effect on April 1, 2013.

The "starting-out wage" scheme would allow employers to pay no less than 80 per cent of the minimum wage - or $10.80 an hour - for up to six months when they take on a 16- or 17-year-old worker, regardless of whether it is that teenager's first job or not.

It will also apply to 18- and 19-year-olds who have been on a benefit for more than six months, and 16- to 19-year-olds who are also doing 40 or more industry training credits.

Currently, 16- and 17-year-olds are able to be paid $10.80 for the first three months of employment and those in industry training doing 60 credits a year also get the same amount.

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said the starting-out wage announced yesterday was not much different to the current labour laws.

"What's changing is the time frame that is applicable," he said. "In my opinion, there are very few employers that pay minimum wage anyway. Most employers want employees that are experienced and capable."

Mr Sciascia said few people under 18 worked in the hospitality industry - except for fast food outlets.

"You don't want cheap staff, you want efficient staff and efficient staff generally come with experience and experience doesn't generally come with youth workers."

Grindz cafe co-owner Steve Graham said the law change would not change how he operated.

The cafe does hire 16- and 17-year-olds but chooses to pay them minimum wage.

"We've always paid them the minimum adult wage because of the job I require them to do. They're on their feet for a long time. It'd be a bit miserable," he said.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the law change would give young people the opportunity to get work experience, earn money and gain skills.

"The new starting-out wage will help some of our youngest and most inexperienced workers get a much-needed foot in the door, in what is currently a tight labour market," she said.

Tauranga student Hayley Steel, 16, is less than impressed with the changes.

"It's just like putting paper boy tax on in the end. How's it going to help us?" she said. "We should be getting out there and making them want to hire us. The Government shouldn't be lowering wages to encourage them."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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