Min­i­mum wage rise hot topic

Clutha Leader - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - MARY-JO TOHILL

While the prospect of a min­i­mum wage in­crease has caused twitch­i­ness around the coun­try, two Bal­clutha busi­ness peo­ple seem to be tak­ing it in their stride.

New Zealand’s min­i­mum wage is set to in­crease to $20 by 2021, un­der a new coali­tion deal.

The in­crease will oc­cur in stages, start­ing in April 2018 when pay for work­ers on the low­est in­come will rise from $15.75 to $16.50 an hour.

New Zealand Tax­pay­ers’ Union ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jor­dan Wil­liams has slammed the move, say­ing it was ‘‘eco­nom­i­cally bar­baric’’ be­cause it would price peo­ple out of jobs.

Not only that, it would kill jobs for those start­ing at the bot­tom of the lad­der, want­ing skills and ex­pe­ri­ence, and who would ben­e­fit the most from work, he said.

How­ever, Bal­clutha’s Heart and Soul Cafe owner Robyn Bell said she was un­fazed by the pro­posed in­crease in four years’ time.

In busi­ness for about 14 years, she could clearly re­call when the wage was $11 per hour (in 2008), and ris­ing to the level ex­pected by 2021 would come as no sur­prise.

‘‘I think it would have in­creased to $20 by that time any­way.’’

Along­side the wage in­crease, she would ex­pect costs to rise ac­cord­ingly.

Her cafe em­ploys about eight work­ers.

Had the wage in­crease hit ‘‘straight away’’ it would def­i­nitely have hurt, but at least there were four years to get used to the idea and plan ahead, she said.

Bal­clutha Mit­subishi - BP 2Go owner Pat Wong also said a wage rise was in­evitable.

The busi­ness em­ploys about 20 peo­ple, with some ca­sual, schoolaged work­ers.

How­ever, as to how a wage rise would im­pact on staffing lev­els, it would be a case of ’’wait and see’’, she said.

‘‘It’s a mat­ter of look­ing at how many staff you will need, and whether or not you can trim some edges.’’

Bal­clutha Ry­der’s Sta­tionery em­ployee Vanessa Pow, 19, said many peo­ple at her age and stage would wel­come the pay rise.

She knew from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing to travel from Bal­clutha to Dunedin to at­tend ter­tiary study for two years, that it was tough be­ing on a min­i­mum wage. A bit more in the pocket would help, she said. ‘‘It’s great for stu­dents strug­gling to make ends meet, and for peo­ple with young fam­i­lies.’’

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