Fair pay by Susan Grimsdell

The concept of fairness

It’s not fair!

It always surprises me when there’s a huge angry uproar at the notion of introducing policies designed to make things more equal.  Recently the Labour government announced it will introduce fair pay legislation for the first time since the Employment Contracts Act overturned employees’ rights in the 1990s.

The word is “fair”.  Have you noticed that one of the first phrases children use once they’re old enough to speak, is “It’s not fair!”  We seem to be born with a notion of fairness, yet as adults, this seems to get lost and it becomes, “It doesn’t make me richer so I’m against it.” 

The benefits of greater wealth

Regarding this new proposal, business groups are saying brazenly. “Fair pay has no place in the modern workplace.”  Have they listened to themselves?  Have they no shame in declaring they are against things being fair? In fact, improving wages for the vast majority of us who work as employees has to be good in every way.  For one thing, we tend to spend most of what we earn, and mostly on the local market.  That makes the economy go round.  The wealth circulates and it’s shared.  Tax revenue goes up, and that means for one example, hospitals won’t have to take out ads asking people to donate money for extra beds in the children’s wards. 

Fairness beats greed


I would like to remind employers what happened when slavery was abolished.  I wasn’t around then, but we can all imagine the reaction of plantation owners – the bleating! The protests!  How can they possibly continue if they have to pay the workers.  Impossible!  Yet somehow economies survived and life went on.  We can be grateful that at that time all those years ago decency and fairness overruled greed and cruelty.  Let’s not forget however that the price was tens of thousands of lives in a terrible war. 

I’m tired of hearing that inequality is growing and growing year by year in New Zealand and I’m hoping this new commitment to fair pay will put a brake on that, and perhaps even reduce it just a teensy bit.  What a good thing that would be for everyone, including the employers.

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