New Zealand government under fire over minimum wage rise

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 26, 2013 08:00 hrs

Wellington, Feb 26 (IANS) The New Zealand government raised the country's minimum wage Tuesday by just 25 NZ cents per hour, a sum critics said was condemning low wage earners to poverty.

The minimum wage would rise from 13.50 NZ dollars ($11.26) to 13.75 NZ dollars from April 1, Labour Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement.

"Setting these wage rates represents a careful balance between protecting low paid workers and ensuring jobs are not lost as the economic recovery gains pace," said Bridges.

The move comes as a coalition of opposition political groups, unions, churches and other social organizations are campaigning for a "living wage" of 18.40 NZ dollars an hour, saying it is the minimum to stay out of poverty, reported Xinhua.

The main opposition Labour Party said the government was trying to give the country "a competitive advantage" by holding down wages with the 1.9-percent rise in the minimum wage.

The opposition Green Party claimed CEO pay packets rose by 10 percent last year, further widening the economic divide between the poorest and richest in society.

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) said a significant rise in the minimum wage would keep workers out of poverty and reverse rising income inequalities.

"The evidence from New Zealand and internationally is that it would not increase unemployment," CTU secretary Peter Conway said in a statement.

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