National won't scrap planned minimum wage hikes - Collins

The AM Show 21/02/2020

National won't scrap any planned increases to the minimum wage "already in place", MP Judith Collins says.

Earlier this week National finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith told RNZ the party was "thinking about" cancelling next year's planned minimum wage increase, should it win the election.

The Labour-NZ First coalition agreement signed in 2017 said the minimum wage would reach $20 an hour by 2021. It was then $15.75, is presently $17.70 and will go up to $18.90 in April.

But there's an election between this April and next.

Asked on The AM Show on Friday if National really would "get rid of the minimum wage increases that are coming", Collins said no.

"But I think it is important that we understand that it's getting harder and harder for small businesses in particular to survive. I think we need to be very, very careful."

She challenged AM Show host Duncan Garner's assertion that National has historically delivered much smaller minimum wage increases than Labour.

Not necessarily. No. I don't know that that's true.

Between 1999 and 2008, when Labour led the Government, the minimum wage went from $7 to $12 - an increase of more than 70 percent. Under the nine years of the recent National-led Government, it rose to $15.75 - just 31 percent. 

National did have to deal with the global financial crisis, however. Statistics NZ data shows the median weekly income for all adults (full- and part-time) rose 60 percent between 1999 and 2008 but only 28 percent between 2008 and 2017, meaning the minimum wage increases for both parties were only slightly ahead of median income growth. 

For full-time workers only, the median weekly earnings rose 38 percent under Labour - dwarfed by its minimum wage increases - and 29 percent under National, again just under its minimum wage boosts.

Labour MP Willie Jackson, appearing alongside Collins, said National "don't care about the workers" and dismissed concerns it would result in more unemployment.

"We support businesses - businesses are not going to go down. They preach doom and gloom every time we increase the wages, but we've got to look after some of these families that have been struggling for so long."

He then claimed the $20 minimum wage in 2021 would be the "living wage", but the official Living Wage campaign says it's already at $21.15. It's set to announce an increased figure in April. 

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley