$11 an hour hailed and railed against

By Trevor Quinn -

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples is pleased some retail and fast-food outlets in the region, such as Countdown McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, will not be using the controversial youth pay rates but says that job-experience opportunities are also important.

"I would prefer if everyone could be paid the minimum wage plus, however, if it gets young people into a job and it means that they're able to put a job on to their CV then I think that's better than them being unemployed," she said. "When I started working, young people earned less than their older colleagues."

Mrs Staples said that while there were some benefits to the youth wage, she would support any businesses who did not wish to implement it.

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark, who was previously an employer and operated a small business, said it was encouraging that some businesses were making the choice not to pay youth rates.

However, he said he also recognised that it put some businesses in a difficult position.

"I had to mortgage my house just to get my venture going, and deciding whether to employ somebody is a big decision and one that people shouldn't take lightly," Mr Mark said.

Making a decision on whether to pay the youth wage was a judgment call that businesses in the region would have to make.

"Businesses who want to pay young workers less will be talked about and it may lead to some shoppers deciding whether they want to shop there."

The Same Work Same Pay campaign, which argued that paying youth rates was unnecessary and unfair, criticised the move by Foodstuffs Ltd supermarkets Pak'nSave and New World, who said they would be willing to pay the low wages.

Campaign spokesman James Sleep said the stance by Pak'nSave and New World was cynical and simply monetary-based.

"Pak'nSave and New World will take advantage of lower pay to make more money.

"This will mean workers over 19 could very likely lose hours and potentially not be hired at all," he said.

"Their competitors, Countdown, have gone in the opposite direction and have said they will continue to pay their existing pay structure."

When contacted by the Wairarapa Times-Age, Foodstuffs group communications director Antoinette Shallue said the company was "keeping an open mind to all programmes which allow us to employ New Zealanders and develop their careers".

Water-Mart Wairarapa managing director Rod Miller said he was in favour of the youth wage initiative and felt it was a positive step that gave youngsters an opportunity to show their worth in the plumbing sector.

"I think it's a very good idea, there's a lot of people who won't get a chance," Mr Miller said.

"They can't get into the business because they've no experience at all, so it's an opportunity to show that they're keen."

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