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Greens lay complaint over 'starting wage'

Published: 4:43PM Thursday October 18, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Green Party has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over the Government's new "starting-out wage".

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced earlier this month that a Minimum Wage (starting-out wage) Amendment Bill will see eligible 16-to 19-year-olds paid no less than 80% of the $13.50 minimum wage rate, and will effectively double the time workers can be on the Government's training wage to six months.

The Bill allows employers to pay 16 and 17-year-olds, and 18 and 19-year-olds who have been on a benefit for more than six months, $10.80 an hour for the first six months of a job.

It will not be compulsory but will apply for six months and about 40,000 teens will be eligible.

The Green Party has laid a complaint about the Bill, saying that it discriminates on the basis of young workers' employment status.

"The Human Rights Act states that it is 'unlawful to discriminate on the ground of employment status in any of the prohibited areas of public life'," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

Turei said the Bill creates two separate classes of employment status.

"Those 18 and 19 year olds who have not been on a benefit face missing out on jobs and those who have been on a benefit face missing out on pay.

"This legislation creates a double edged sword with which to discriminate on the basis of employment status," Turei said.

The Labour Party is also concerned, saying that it will make things difficult for employers.

Labour Issues Spokesperson Darien Fenton says The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the grounds of employment status, including being on a benefit, and that employers are not allowed to ask an employee's age or whether they have been on the benefit.

"What is not clearly explained is how employers will be able to find out whether a young worker has been on a benefit for six months before they make a decision to hire them.

"Given the current issues around privacy breaches it is questionable as to whether Work and Income should be able to provide that information to employers," she said.

She said the Act prevents employers from advertising 'starting out wage jobs' for 16 and 17 year olds.

"And despite Kate Wilkinson claiming the starting out wage is not compulsory and workers will have to agree to it, young people who have been on a benefit who turn down a starting out wage job will be sanctioned with up to a 13 week benefit stand down, so their rights are undermined as well."

Fenton said the given the latest security failure at Winz Kiosks the Government needed to be more careful about a policy which she says increases the risk of information unlawfully being released.