Workers at one of the country's largest hotel chains will stay about $80 a week better off after the company agreed to continue paying staff at least the living wage as MIQ ends.
Accor Hotels, which operated six of the 32 MIQ hotels throughout the pandemic, has agreed to not only continue paying a minimum of the living wage - now $22.75 - at those facilities but enact the policy across its 22 hotels nationwide.
It comes after a massive campaign to have the critical workforce, many of whom had previously been paid the minimum wage or only slightly above, recognised for helping to keep the country safe over the past two years.
"A lot of Accor staff are former MIQ workers, who were looking at a pay cut once MIQ ended," said John Crocker, national secretary at Unite Union which represents many of the workers.
"Accor have done the right thing and maintained that rate, and further extended it to all their hotels."
Several individual hotels - including Rydges Auckland - have indicated they will continue paying staff their former MIQ rates but Accor is the first nationwide brand to do so, Crocker said.
The wage increase will apply to all workers- not just those who were formerly MIQ.
"This represents the largest wage increases hotel workers have had in a very long time- a significant change for a low-wage industry," Crocker said.
Unite Union hotels' organiser Shanna Reeder said the collective agreement would see on average about an extra $80 a week going to the workers.
"That's roughly about an adult's worth of groceries a week. That changes things, changes possibilities. And the fact it is the living wage means it is money people can live on.
"It signals a change in the industry, that it's ready to pay people a proper wage, that they can save on and live above the poverty line."
At the beginning of the pandemic and as the MIQ system was established, many of those workers were paid the minimum wage or only slightly above.
After a hard-fought campaign the Government agreed at the end of 2020 all MIQ staff would be paid a minimum of the living wage.
But critically this did not cover those employed directly by the hotels themselves.
Again, workers spoke out and in the end, all 32 hotels contracted by the Government paid their staff the living wage.
With border controls scaling right back and the MIQ system winding down, from June 30 just four facilities will remain: Jet Park - Auckland, Holiday Inn - Auckland, Waipuna - Auckland, and Commodore - Christchurch.
The rest are all being deep-cleaned and going through various refurbishments before they reopen to the public over the next few months.
But this process has raised questions about the future salaries of those critical workers.
Prior to Accor's announcement, only Rydges in Auckland had publicly confirmed it would continue paying the living wage.
Among the others, Jet Park Auckland will remain an MIQ facility until June 30 and pay the living wage until then, and Crown Plaza Auckland has agreed to continue the rate but only for current staff.
Reeder said Unite Union was in talks with others to continue living wage rates.
"I think the MIQ experience showed many of these facilities they can pay their staff these wages.
"Another part is they want to hold on to their staff, and changes to immigration means this industry that has relied so much on migrant workers for decades has not been able to hire as many workers.
"We also had 100 per cent of our workers ask for the living wage - that's the first time that has happened.
"It shows they are becoming more united and realising a living wage is a fair and reasonable thing to ask for."
Crocker said it was good to see the living wage in hospitality, which they were aiming to be part of a Fair Pay Agreement next year.