Call to push for ‘minimum’ living wage in Southland

A group of Southland business leaders reported pressure for employers to pay at least a living wage.

The call comes from the Southland Murihiku Regional Skills Leadership Group, which includes 13 members from the private and public sectors in the region who receive analysis and support from the Department of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The group released a workforce plan on Thursday that says a “fundamental aspiration” is for employers to seek a commitment to providing a living wage at a minimum.

Figures from StatsNZ show Southland’s average annual household income was $91,470 for the year ending June 2021. That’s $18,981 less than the national average.

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The current national minimum wage is $21.20 per hour. The current living wage is $23.65/hr.

However, when compiling the workforce plan, employers in Southland told the group that severe labor and skills shortages were leading to targeted poaching of staff “and rising wage expectations to non-economic levels”.

Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni was in Invercargill on Thursday for the release of the Southern Institute of Technology’s workforce plan, as was Invercargill’s Labor List MP Liz Craig.

When asked how much ground needed to be made up for every Southlander to receive a living wage, Sepuloni replied that it was very specific to those in the area and deferred to Craig.

Craig said a good example was that SIT cleaners were paid a living wage, a move that would encourage other employers to consider paying a living wage.

“It’s had such an impact on workers’ lives, just the ability to be able to work and fully engage with their families in a whole range of activities,” Craig said.

The living wage rate of $23.65 is 68% of the national average hourly wage, which was $34.76 for the year to June 2021.

The Southland Murihiku Regional Skills Leadership Group is co-chaired by Aratiatia Livestock Managing Director Paul Marshall and Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust Managing Director Tracey Wright-Tawha.

Earlier this month, Student Job Search chief executive Suzanne Boyd told Stuff that young people in Southland were taking advantage of a tight job market and leaving behind jobs where they were underpaid or underpaid. assessed.

Michael A. Bynum