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The reality of a living wage

May 9, 2014

Dear Sir,

The now often repeated phrase of the demand for a living wage with the poetic eloquence of any orator of note in history now crashes into the public discourse at a time of great economic distress for many in our community. This of course will resonate with many who see themselves to be at the merciless tyranny of employers whose only desire in life is their bottom line and maximum profits.

Is there a case to be made in this regard? Clearly the answer is both yes and no given the worst and best of human nature. Are there unscrupulous employees that are lazy and unproductive while wanting to write the amount of their own paychecks? The answer is yes but we also have workers that are diligent productive and industrious as the best in human nature will dictate. It is really not about us and them but in reality it is us and us!

Now then let's talk about the fanciful and romantic notion of a “living wage” being postulated in a very emotional forum with no dollar amount being put on the table for discussion. If such a thing as a living wage being in place anywhere in the free world it would be most interesting to hear about it. In the US of course there is a minimum hourly rate mandated in law with no mention of living wage being attached as far as I know

Before I am rubbished as the enemy of the people's need to be able to live, please hear me out. Just how do we arrive at this living wage when the chanting and shouting stops? Who in fact owes me a living? Certainly it is the responsibility of every working and healthy adult to work and provide for themselves and their family's needs and no one is owed a living. There should be no place for exploitation of workers in this country by paying people wages that would hardly leave them able to feed themselves.

If we demand a living wage then who in this country is to determine what it needs to be and state what is the dollar amount. The rhetorical spinning of our wheels by chanting that we need a living wage accomplishes nothing!

Would someone please have the brass fortitude to say exactly what is a living wage, replete with numbers that can be put under the microscope of economic reality.

Is it not true that every service exchanged for monetary reward has a dollar value in a competitive market? With that said, how do we flesh out what is to be paid to allow people a living when considering what the job is worth with a myriad of issues in a free market that rules absolute?

It is so easy to pander to a populist demand that says any job offer must bear in mind that the employee is able to pay his essential needs to exist, irrespective of what the business can pay in an unforgiving market.

In the real world your rent, utilities, clothing and food are your normal and reasonable responsibilities.

There are circumstance of health challenges, and yes the high cost of living in this country, but life is unfair and you cannot dictate how supply and demand work in a free market. If we think that marching will bring prices down and wages up we are whistling dixie.

I am not a rich man at all and do not own a business that employs people, but over several decades I have had friends that do and friends that sell their labour in a robust market at rates that the market will pay, nothing more and nothing less. To all those who absolutely disagree with me then produce a study of what constitutes a living wage that will provides a floor that no one will fall beneath. We need verifiable numbers on a hourly basis or weekly with a dollar amount attached. Failure to do this relegates this to pure rhetoric and building a name on the need of people to understand how business and employment really works.

Any endeavour for money is there to maximise income or profits and that makes this whole issue about us. Labour, as with any commodity, demands and receives very high remuneration depending on qualification, skill, experience and seniority. Those at the lower end as to the aforementioned with lesser abilities need to live, but will someone please say what is the minimum they should be paid as a living wage.


A placard at the ‘People's Campaign' march in Hamilton on May 1 calls for an increase in the minimum wage. A letter writer questions whether or not it is possible to quantify what is a living wage.

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Published May 10, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 09, 2014 at 7:18 pm)

The reality of a living wage

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