It does seem insane, when you drive through Otara and poor buggers can hardly put food on their flaming plate, while others are earning millions of dollars. Waikato farmer, Lloyd Downing
Work in progress
By Roger Childs
The recent government reaction to the successful pay-equity test case is good news. However there is still a yawning income gap between rich and poor, and too many people are paid far too little.
The minimum wage is a paltry $15.78 an hour and there are far more women than men on this basic rate.
The concept of the living wage is better at $$20.20, and this should become the minimum at least.
If we are going to deal with our appalling poverty – we are low down in the OECD list – we need to ramp up what the poor are paid and get serious about gender equality in remuneration.
A history of inequality
When I started teaching many decades ago, there were separate scales for men and women. Males were favoured on the basis of the dubious principle that men were the principle bread-winners. This was fortunately rectified a few years later.
In 1972 the Equal Pay Act brought about the elimination and prevention of gender discrimination in remuneration rates in all sectors of paid employment. However, average incomes for women have continued to lag behind their male counterparts.
Periodically there has been debate on the issue eg whether nurses (mainly women) should get similar pay rates to the police (mainly men).
There has long been a strong feeling that employers, invariably males, were paying the minimum wage to employees in sectors such as cleaners and rest home workers because they were women. Matters came to a head with the recent Supreme Court case.
Some redress of the grievances
Kristine Bartlett backed by the unions, won her case, on the issue that aged-care workers were being under-paid on gender grounds.
The outcome is good for them, as on July 1 everyone in the sector will get at least $19 per hour. Hopefully this will flow on to other poorly-paid employment areas where women predominate.
However, what the rest home workers will earn from the second half of 2017 still puts them below the minimum wage. Furthermore, disparities and discrimination still remain between men and women.
In the United States, there has recently been a well-publicised case where a professional woman started a new job and found that a male colleague doing exactly the same work was being paid more. Why? He had been paid at a higher rate in his previous job than her, and their employer had based their relative salaries on this information.
Marxism, Occupy and America
One of the basic principles of Marxism was that more and more wealth would be accumulated by fewer and fewer people, and that ultimately the proletariat (workers) would rise up and overthrow the capitalist system.
In modern times the closest we have got to that was in the Occupy Movement which started in Wall St in 2011. It had its echo in New Zealand and people will recall activists camping on the edge of Wellington’s civic square.
Basically Occupy was spawned by the financial crisis which the Bush Administration did nothing to prevent and passed on to Obama. It was a protest against social and economic inequality and wanted governments to act against corporations with their growing power, obscene profits and rampant tax avoidance.
Obama initially appeared to be sympathetic and made comments about filthy rich business leaders paying less percentage tax than their secretaries.
Unfortunately he was reigned in by advisers who has worked for Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions. The administration bailed out corporations in trouble and did nothing about getting them to pay tax.
Trump is unlikely to do anything either, and won’t even release his tax returns.
Obscene disparities in New Zealand earnings
Many years ago there was a front page story on the annual pay packet for the CEO of Westpac. The paper worked out that with his $4 million + salary he was being paid 128 times more than one of his tellers.
In New Zealand CEO salaries are small by world standards, but the inequalities in our country continue to increase. People are worthy of their hire, but not worth millions.
Fonterra’s Theo Spierings may have felt good about freezing his $4.9m annual salary back in January, but if his mother was in a rest home her carers would be lucky to earn $40,000, even after 30 June.
This year’s election will hopefully feature income disparity as a major issue. Already Gareth Morgan’s Opportunities Party is raising the issue of introducing a Universal Basic Income which would provide everyone with $10,000 for starters and then there would be top ups.
Let the debate begin; there is a long way to go on closing income disparities and eliminating poverty in God’s Own Country.