Strong support for big rise in minimum wage

By Claire Trevett

Sixty-one per cent of people want the minimum wage lifted to $15 an hour, a Herald Summer Survey has found, weeks before the Government is to set the wage for this year.

The minimum wage is now $12.50 an hour, and the Cabinet is expected to decide within a fortnight whether to increase it.

Unions and business groups are predicting a rise to $13 this year, but the unions are campaigning for $15.

The Herald Summer Survey of about 2300 people showed significant support for $15 an hour.

Asked what the wage should be, just over 60 per cent of respondents opted for that figure.

Women were generally more in favour than men of this increase.

Prime Minister John Key has given little indication of what the 100,000 workers on the minimum wage can expect, and would not comment on the issue.

A spokesman for Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the Cabinet would take into account the same factors as last year - the need to protect jobs while ensuring fair wages.

Business groups and unions are expecting an increase, but expect it to be 50c an hour.

Business groups last year lobbied for a nil increase, saying any rise would hurt businesses in the recession.

Employers and Manufacturers' Association (Northern) chief executive Alasdair Thompson said yesterday there should be a "modest" lift of 25c to a maximum of 50c an hour.

It should reflect the modest pay increases others had been given.

"But employment will start increasing so I don't think there's the same pressure there was as in 2008 and 2009 to keep a lid on it."

Unite union head Matt McCarten said an increase of 50c to $1 was realistic, and should be acceptable to the Government because business confidence was improving.

"I know their dilemma because they've got public servants who they are saying should get zero.

"But these people are on the bottom of the food chain and should be supported to get an increment."

Reducing the minimum wage was one of the recommendations of the first Don Brash-led 2025 Taskforce report last year.

The Government has dismissed many of those recommendations, but Labour MP Trevor Mallard believes it is considering a nil increase.

He thought the wage should reach $15 an hour by next year, and a rise to $13.75 this year would be a good step.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the CTU had made a submission to the Government calling for $15, which she believed was affordable.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said the party had made it clear to the Government that its policy was for a $15-an-hour figure, which it believed was necessary to cut poverty.

The Maori Party, Green Party and Labour all support the $15 level.

In the Herald survey, the highest support for the $15 rate was 71 per cent among women aged 60-plus.

- NZ Herald

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