Campaign against youth minimum wage launched

By Kate Shuttleworth

Greens' industrial relations spokeswoman Denise Roche said it was a Green Party initiative that saw the end of youth rates in 2008. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Greens' industrial relations spokeswoman Denise Roche said it was a Green Party initiative that saw the end of youth rates in 2008. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A campaign was launched on the steps of Parliament yesterday to oppose the Government's intention to create a minimum wage for young people.

The Minimum Wage (Starting-Out Wage) Amendment Bill had its first reading in Parliament in October and passed by 61 votes to 59.

Members of the opposing Same Work Same Pay campaign have collected 500 submissions from young workers across New Zealand, to be delivered to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee.

Same Work Same Pay campaign spokesman James Sleep, 21, said a youth minimum wage for 16 to 19-year-olds was unfair and wouldn't solve the problem of youth unemployment.

He believed it would merely cut wages for thousands of youth.

"All workers should be paid a living wage based on the work they do and the skills they bring to the job.

Paying a young person less will only take hours and jobs away from other young and older workers. The impact will be felt by workers in all age groups."

Mr Sleep said youth wages had failed in the past.

"Youth rates failed to create jobs in 1990 when youth unemployment reached an all-time high. National need to pull all levers of government to deliver apprenticeships, government-supported job placements, comprehensive employment support for all young people and better access to higher education.

"The youth unemployment population is big enough to fill the city of Palmerston North. These people need well-supported and sustainable jobs, training or further education. The Government's lack of action is now being placed on the shoulders of Generations Y and Z."

Greens' industrial relations spokeswoman Denise Roche said it was a Green Party initiative that saw the end of youth rates in 2008.

"What we need to do for youth unemployment is create jobs. By flooding the market with cheap workers you force wages down for everybody, and you displace low paid workers to employ young people."

"It's forcing our kids to go overseas, where you can earn $20 an hour as a young worker in Sydney as a cleaner."

Labour's spokeswoman on labour issues Darien Fenton said the bill was a big step backwards and would impact on wages across all age groups.

Labour's youth affairs spokeswoman Megan Woods called for real solutions to youth unemployment.

"We've got some of the highest youth unemployment that we've ever had."

"This is just shifting the deck chair."

- APNZ

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