Multi-nationals “resisting” the Living Wage

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New Zealand’s big businesses may be missing a trick if they don’t reconsider their pay schemes – that’s the claim from one union campaigner who says the Living Wage benefits both employers and their staff.

According to Annie Newman, convener for the Living Wage Movement, a growing number of employers are catching on to the business benefits of offering a better wage but large multi-nationals still show the most reluctance.

“The one area where we would love to see people come on board, because they can really afford it, is in the multi-national companies and they’re just not,” says Annie Newman, who is also the national director of campaigning for E tū.

Newman says smaller employers with a strong ethical image tend to be the most interested in becoming accredited but they soon realise the benefits are greater than just maintaining a desirable brand.

“We find that most employers come on board because they want to do the right thing and they say that this is a moral and ethical thing to do but then they find out that this makes financial sense for them as well,” says Newman.

Now, she’s encouraging New Zealand’s corporate giants to reconsider their pay schemes and guarantee the Living Wage to all staff or risk missing out on a whole host of business benefits.

“Employers find there is better recruitment and retention, that there are higher levels of productivity, that there are more stable workforces and there is higher morale so there is a lot of very strong evidence around those benefits to employers,” she says.

Despite its growing popularity, the Living Wage has its fair share of critics – among them is the CEO of Auckland’s Chamber of Commerce, who claims the “populist” movement can have wide-reaching implications upon businesses.

“If I’m going to be giving out salary increases from $15 and hour to $20 an hour – and I’m not doing it on the basis of increased performance and improved outputs – [then] to me, that’s just bad business,” Michael Barnett said last year.

Despite being a strong advocate for the cause, Newman also acknowledges that implementing the Living Wage won’t always be an easy task.

“We know that that’s a big ask and it means constructing a model for how you’re going to run your business very carefully but it can be done,” she says.

The Living Wage for 2016 was calculated at $19.80 per hour - $4.55 more than the minimum wages set by the government. Accredited employers include Oxfam New Zealand, Little Island Ltd, Greenpeace NZ and Auckland Women’s Centre.
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