1000 march on 'school strike'

By Anne Beston

A "school strike" to raise youth pay rates saw around 1000 young people storm down Queen St yesterday where they staged an impromptu sit-in and chanted outside fast-food outlets.
One person was arrested and several students had scratches and grazes as police tried to keep order.

A sit-down at the intersection of Wellesley and Queen Sts temporarily blocked an ambulance from getting through and brought a blast of horns from angry motorists.

Police moved the crowd on and managed to prevent some marchers from barging into fast-food shops.

Police Inspector Rob Abbott said no reinforcements had been called in despite the presence of a police van, at least two police cars and traffic police.

Earlier the crowd had gathered for a SupersizeMyPay rally in Aotea Square aimed at abolishing youth rates and organised by a group of students called Radical Youth.

Spokesperson Nista Singh, a Mt Roskill Grammar Year 13 student, said the protest was about students standing up for their rights.

"They recognise that youth rates are discriminatory and we need to voice our opinions . . ," she said.

She had worked at Pizza Hut until earlier this year but refused to work for $8.10 an hour.

Many of the students attending yesterday's protest did not have part-time jobs but said they were there to get a fair deal for when they did start work.

Year 11 Rutherford High School student Ben Pervan, 15, said he was paid $7.60 an hour as an after-school carer for children aged 10 or younger.

"I think today is bloody great, I can't buy anything with what I'm paid. I think $10 an hour would be good and $12 would be awesome."

The school had told students attending the rally they would be given after-school detention. One of the rally organisers, Simon Oosterman from the Unite union, said he understood at least one school had threatened to suspend students who attended the event.

Students from Auckland Girls Grammar, Mt Roskill Grammar, Mt Albert Grammar, Rutherford High School and Waitakere College participated.

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