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Win for supermarket youth

Published: 7:32AM Wednesday August 15, 2007 Source: One News

One of New Zealand's largest employers of young people has announced pay rises for its youth workers.

Progressive Enterprises, which operates Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworths supermarkets, has agreed to a deal with the National Distribution Union which will lift the base pay rates of thousands of its workers - including its 15, 16 and 17-year-old employees.

The announcement pre-empts the minimum wage bill presently being put before parliament and has pleased many young workers across New Zealand.

"We work just as hard as the adults do, we should be paid equally as well," says 15-year-old checkout operator Rohini Sudarsanan who will receive an extra $1.98 an hour - up from her present pay of $8.29.

It is not only a victory for her, it's a victory for the union as well.

"I think that will pay off not only for the workers but for Progressive itself in improving its position in attracting young people to work in its supermarkets," says Laila Harre, NDU spokeswoman.

Progressive says it is a victory for them as well.

"We think this is a fantastic way of moving the business forward and reflecting the value in our team and it's a great partnership outcome with the NDU," says spokesman Aston Moss.

Senior staff also seem supportive of their younger, less-experienced colleagues getting pay rises of up to 65%.

"They started as a young person and recognise that they are doing the same job as what they're doing and it's fair pay for a fair job," says Darryn Brash, a Foodtown store manager.

Progressive is one of the country's largest employers of young people with over 3,500 staff under the age of 18.

Under the proposed agreement all of those young people will move to a full adult rate after they have worked for three months or 200 hours.

The move has pre-empted Green MP Sue Bradford's minimum wage bill which is aimed at abolishing teenage pay rates.

But other big youth employers such as the tourism industry point out the pitfalls with parity.

"Well, the starter wage is an incentive to bring people on, particularly straight from school," says Fiona Luhrs from the Tourism Industry Association.

That, of course, is of little concern to the potentially wealthier teenagers working in supermarkets across New Zealand who will vote on the new pay deal later this week.

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