Public workers welcome Budget commitment to liveable incomes
20 May 2021
Public Service Association members will celebrate today’s Budget boosts for beneficiaries and low-paid workers, and the announcement of new programmes to tackle the housing crisis.
The government has committed to raise weekly benefit rates between $32 and $55 per adult, by April 1 2022 reaching or exceeding the recommendations of 2019’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group.
"PSA members choose careers in agencies like the Ministry of Social Development because they want to help people in need. Shamefully low benefit levels caused unnecessary suffering for thirty years, so we’re thrilled the government has today promised to end that dark legacy," says union National Secretary Erin Polaczuk.
"This Budget secures funding to maintain the current levels of public and community services on which New Zealanders rely. Public servants can continue to work with confidence."
The government announced plans to work with the Council of Trade Unions and Business New Zealand to develop a Social Unemployment Insurance scheme, which will for a period of time provide workers who lose their jobs with 80 percent of their previous income.
Significant funding has been allocated to support pay equity, including over $35 million between now and 2022 for "the additional costs of worker hours resulting from the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act."
DHB admin and clerical workers will see $18.7 million allocated each year to fund the implementation of their pay equity claim, between now and 2025.
However, health and other core sectors are under strain from a growing population with increasingly acute needs.
The Budget does not allocate enough funding to overcome decades of underinvestment in base services or keep up with inflation.
"We applaud the government’s commitment to uplifting the lowest paid public workers. Settling pay equity claims and guaranteeing secure hours will deliver dignity to those long denied it," says Ms Polaczuk.
"From housing support to climate initiatives, PSA members will be excited to get stuck in and implement these government programmes. Budget policies become possible when public servants make them happen, so we look forward to the government appropriately recognising the value of this work."
See also: New Productivity Commission report confirms workers need a pay rise
The Public Service Association (PSA) says a new Productivity Commission report clearly shows that workers have not reaped the benefits of increased productivity over the past 30 years, in contrast to government rhetoric that productivity is the only way to see pay rise.
Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary, said “This report clearly shows that productivity has doubled since 1978 while pay increases are significantly lower,”
“Workers across the country are struggling with the rising cost of living, and productivity-related excuses for low pay rises are no longer acceptable.
“A significant percentage of the PSA’s 59,000 strong membership is in bargaining this year, and the Government has a chance to make a meaningful difference to the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working New Zealanders.
“The share of GDP that workers receive has shrunk considerably since 1978, and this needs to change.
“When the Government’s own Productivity Commission is saying this, Bill English and his colleagues must sit up and listen,” said Erin Polaczuk.
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