Thursday, 22 May 2008

contractors deserve minimum wages too

with all the coverage on the budget (and a damn good budget it was too), there will be almost no coverage of this little happening. the bill providing for a minimum wage for contractors has passed its second reading. this is great news for those at the bottom of the ladder - the pizza deliverers and cleaners that darien talks about.

also affected are the kids who deliver pamphlets, some working at effectively 25 cents per hour. i've heard the argument from 1 mother that if rates went up, then companies would not be able to afford the deliverers, hence her son would no longer be able to earn some much needed pocket money. this was similar to the argument used for abolishing youth rates, and for ensuring that disabled people were paid the minimum wage. it's also an argument that's put up every time the minimum wage is raised - that it will increase unemployment because employers will not be able to employ so many people.

but the facts say otherwise. labour has raised the minimum wage every year for the last nine years, and the economy has not slowed until very recently, and that too because of overseas problems that we can't control. we've had record growth over this period, and employers are still finding it hard to get staff. in other words, there has been no increase in unemployment as a result.

the fact is that people deserve to get paid fairly for the work they do. the threat of losing their job should not be a reason for them to accept miserable remuneration. they should also be entitled to holiday pay, sick leave and reasonable working hours. do we really want truck drivers on our roads who have been driving for 12-13 hours at a stretch?

incidentally, the bill won't be applied to under 16 year olds, so the mum above can be assured that her boy will still be able to earn his pocket money. even so, i would think that parents of children would be wanting to make sure they receive a decent amount of money for the work they put in. today, when all the talk is about tax cuts, let's take a moment to remember that we also need to improve gross wages, especially for those at the bottom in these exploitative contractual arrangements. because they deserve it.

just an update on my post of 2 days ago. this blog post by karlo mila, circulated on AEN, is a brilliant response to dr clydesdale's report. also, i wanted to share these words from richard small, wellington lawyer and hard-working champion of the downtrodden:

Your paper may not be overtly racist but my concern is that by being selective in its framing it validates, or gives permission for others to be racist.

I'm a pakeha or palagi New Zealander. I was around in 1988 -1993 working with care givers for the elderly and in avoiding elder abuse with ADARDS NZ and the south Auckland elder abuse team. Greg would you agree with me that for Palagi New Zealanders the last 20 years have seen a massive sea-change in the expectation of caring for elderly parents at home or indeed putting them into traditional hospital? Nationally, Pasifika women are an irreplaceable part of the home-care industry that, despite a few high profile stuff ups, and despite poor pay and conditions, allowed tens of thousands of elderly people to remain home with dignity. In other cases hard-pressed carers have respite care on a weekly basis. Who else will change the nappies of many of our elderly given industry staff shortages, particualrly in our largest centres?

The home-care industry is far from perfect but many Palagi families have had a gift of time and choice (in terms of socially acceptable options for care of elders) that our forebears simply did not have. The long and unsociable hours worked have sometimes been at the expense of the care by Pasifika workers of their own families. Do we then change our immigration laws to allow their sisters and cousins and grandparents to migrate here and care for their children? No, through reports like yours we seem to "bag" them, for the neglect of working long hours and for increased crime statistics due to the lack of elders and role models, without crediting them for helping us defuse an aging population "bomb." Where is the "drain" here? Are you missing all the "taps?"

i'm going to be away for the next few days in wellington. i'll be at the annual convention of the islamic women's council. it's always a great experience, with excellent speakers and a lovely, supportive atmosphere. i'll be back blogging next monday.


Ben R said...

I read Karlo Mila's comment. Quite interesting, but don't you think she's a bit quick to accuse Clydesdale of racism? If he was just setting out to be racist why not complain about Asians, or Indians?

Perhaps it's because race isn't the factor he's interested in? Perhaps it's because those groups aren't overrepresented in crime, youth gangs and have poorer educational outcomes?

Rather than ducking the unpleasant data, maybe people could look at how to improve things?

stargazer said...

i'm sorry ben, you don't have to pick a group of racists to make a racist comment/report. if i say all europeans are idiots because they all look down on brown people, then that is a racist comment even though i never mentioned asians, africans, arabs, pacific islanders etc etc.

dr clydesdale's report is racist because of the selective use of information, the failure to take into account trends that show improvement and the failure to acknowledge institutional racism in nz that would in part have contributed to poor stats. he also fails to acknowledge that two thirds of pasifika people were born in nz, so the problems they face are created in our country and should be solved in our country.

dr clydesdale analysis also fails in that his analysis of what is "productive" or necessary is pretty pathetic. let's all try living for a month with no commercial cleaners (or richard's example of caregivers), and let's see how we survive.

Ben R said...

"he also fails to acknowledge that two thirds of pasifika people were born in nz, so the problems they face are created in our country and should be solved in our country."

True, but given they have a special immigration quota shouldn't that be reviewed if they're consistently overrepresented in terms of crime, lower educational achievement etc?

Can you imagine China or Japan would turn a blind eye if European immigrants had similar statistics? Or if Europeans staying in Samoa had higher crime rates?

"acknowledge institutional racism in nz"

That may be a factor, but as I noted, Asians and Indians don't seem to be similarly affected? Early immigrant Indians & Asians were also involved in working class type work (many Sikh's found work as flax workers, drain diggers and scrub cutters) and suffered appalling discrimination. They don't have the same problems in their communities.

"dr clydesdale analysis also fails in that his analysis of what is "productive" "

I know the jobs you refer to are essential. But that's part of the problem - you can see more and more jobs requiring little educucation disapearing with globalisation and improved technology. Witness the huge loss of jobs in forestry & freezing works which was devastating for many communities over the 80's & even lately with PPCS closing some works. It's increasingly important to have a well educated workforce.