On Wednesday, 1 April, New Zealand’s minimum wage increased by $1.20 an hour, from $17.70 to $18.90, providing vital support and increased security for around a quarter of a million working people and their whānau.

The minimum wage increase is a further step in the Government’s goal of a $20 per hour minimum wage by 2021. The new rate of $18.90 per hour for those working 40 hours a week or more will mean an extra $48 per week before tax for our most vulnerable working people and their families. The starting out and training wages have also increased to $15.12 per hour from 1 April 2020, remaining at 80% of the adult minimum wage.

While TEU continues to promote and support the adoption of the Living Wage by employers, TEU National Secretary, Sharn Riggs, says the increase to the minimum wage is welcomed and will genuinely impact on New Zealand’s most vulnerable working people and their families.

The increased rate comes at a time of increased vulnerability, insecurity, and financial uncertainty for many New Zealanders. Many of those eligible for the wage increase are those who remain working as part of the country’s response to COVID-19, working for example, in our supermarkets, or as rubbish collectors and cleaners.

“We have all become familiar in recent weeks with the notion of ‘essential workers’, and ‘essential services’, but it is difficult to imagine circumstances under which these services would not be deemed ‘essential’ to our health, wellbeing and everyday lives” says Riggs.

The COVID-19 pandemic and current restrictions posed by the Government’s COVID-19 Alert Level 4 have put both the importance of those working in essential services, and the challenges faced by our lowest paid working people in stark relief.

For TEU national industrial officer Irena Brorens the increase in the minimum wage will provide a small but much needed boost for New Zealand’s most vulnerable working people and their families at a time of pronounced uncertainty and hardship,

“Now more than ever, New Zealanders are realising the essential role minimum wage earners play in keeping basic services running and providing a lot of things we all take for granted. This small boost comes at a time when lower paid workers, many of whom continue to work during lockdown, need to feel valued for the services they provide, and need to know that their Government is committed to its 2021 goal so they can better provide for their families”.