1 NEWS learns some disabled people being paid as little as 89 cents an hour to work in NZ - and it's legal

People with disabilities are being paid as little as 89 cents an hour to work in New Zealand, while hundreds are earning less than $5 an hour - and it's all legal.

In the last three years, 1500 minimum wage exemptions have been granted by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment for businesses that employ disabled people.

1 NEWS has learned that more than two-thirds of those workers are paid less than $5 an hour for their work.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows five of the lowest paid employees with disabilities earn less than $1 an hour - the minimum wage in New Zealand is $16.50.

One employee, who has Down syndrome and works in community service was being paid 89c.

A handful of others were earning 92c. The IHC's advocacy director, Trish Grant, says it's got to stop.

"The minimum wage exemptions are a weird arrangement where people earn very little money for working hard and that's not fair and it's not right," Ms Grant says.

EXPLOITATION

Ms Grant says in some cases vulnerable people are being exploited by bad operators.

"People earning less than a dollar an hour, they don't have any idea about their employment conditions, they may have an employment agreement but they're not getting annual leave or sick leave those sorts of things," she says.

The IHC has been lobbying successive government to change the rules.

"The Social Development Ministry and MBIE need to immediately review all of the practice so any poor practice doesn't continue.

"Also there needs to be some incentives for those businesses that are supporting disabled workers well, by improving their skills and by ensuring they have got some pathway to the open market," Ms Grant says.

The Government is looking to put an end to the minimum wage exemption for disabled workers.

The Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni was blunt when asked what she made of it by 1 NEWS this week.

"It's not acceptable, actually we know that it's discriminatory, it runs against the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities."

Ms Sepuloni is waiting to receive more advice on what action to take this month.

At Southland Disability Enterprises in Invercargill, more than 80 staff with disabilities help to recycle the region's waste, as part of a special government contract.

While many are paid less than the minimum wage they also receive a separate disability allowance from the Government.

EMPLOYEE LOVES WORK

Cameron Frethey works there and specialises in dismantling computers and recycling wiring too.

Mr Frethey told 1 NEWS he loves going to work. "I make quite a lot of friends and it's also nice to help others."

His boss, General Manager Hamish McMurdo, is worried that if the Government isn't careful operations like his could become economically un-viable and his team could just end up being at home.

He says Southland Disability Enterprises puts enormous emphasis into social activities for their staff, and he says for them it's about more than money.

"We offer discos, dances, dinners out, get-togethers and really promote the social aspect of our family here really," he says.

Ms Sepuloni knows the Government will have to tread carefully.

"When we make any changes in this space we have to look at what the wider repercussions are.

We have to make sure it's fair and that they're no worse off - in fact, they should be better off."

- By 1 NEWS political reporter Benedict Collins 


Advocacy groups say it’s exploitation, but some in the sector, including workers, say it’s not all about the money. Source: 1 NEWS



Peace campaigner receives death threats over opposition to far-right Canadian speakers granted NZ work visas

An Auckland peace campaigner says she has received death threats over her opposition to the far-right Canadian speakers who were granted New Zealand work visas today.

Valerie Morse from Auckland Peace Action says the threats show the impact Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux's views have on their followers.

"I think it goes a long way to show the kind of effects this stuff has on our society and the kind of people it empowers," Ms Morse told 1 NEWS.

She says that herself and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson have been the victim of targeted threats after announcing their opposition to the speakers.

"MP Marama Davidson and I have both received death threats from the fascist supporters of Southern and Molyneux.

"These speakers embolden white supremacists and will directly contribute to increasing the level of racism and violence against the diverse communities that make up this city," she said.

The controversial Canadian speakers have been granted work visas to enter the country after Auckland Council would not allow the pair to speak on Council-owned venues, citing safety issues as the reasoning.

Despite this Iain Lees-Galloway agrees with the decision to grant the visa on free speech grounds. Source: 1 NEWS

Speaking to 1 NEWS Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway backed Immigration New Zealand's decision to grant the visas while also voicing his disdain about the speakers' far-right ideology.

"We absolutely do not condone the things they have been saying, it's repugnant to me personally and they're repugnant to the Government as well but we have to have that high bar in who we exclude from New Zealand.

"I would hate to see the a future Government use the immigration act to suppress debate on indigenous rights or any other matter that genuinely needs to be debated in New Zealand," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Valerie Morse from Auckland Peace Action says the threats show the impact the pairs' views have on their followers. Source: 1 NEWS

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'Stoned smurf' - number of teens trying e-cigarettes soaring as market continues to go unregulated - research

The number of teens trying electronic cigarettes is soaring, according to new research.

The products are still unregulated in this country, with the Government under fire for taking too long to bring in new rules.

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia O'Dwyer is concerned the flavours and marketing of e-cigarettes are very much directed at youth.

"You can't tell me that 'unicorn milk', 'psycho unicorn', or 'stoned smurf' is targeted at adults," Ms O’Dwyer says.

"They're really exciting products ... they've got amazing names and youth and kids are trying these at parties. And if you don't think they are, you've just got your head in the sand."

The number of 14 and 15-year-olds in New Zealand trying e-cigarettes is rising fast.

In 2007, just seven per cent of youths had tried the product, compared to a sharp increase in 2014 which saw the number rise to 20 per cent.

The most recent data shows that number has risen again to 28 per cent.

It's illegal for people under 18 to buy e-cigarettes but the market continues to go unregulated.

Janet Hoek, a professor in health marketing at the University of Otago, says, "They're sold in outlets like dairies and convenience stores and we know that these are stores that children and young people frequent a lot."

"It would be a tragedy to get to [Smokefree] 2025 to discover we've recruited a new generation of young people addicted to a nicotine product."

The previous Government was on track to bring in new rules around advertising and the restriction of sales, but the current Government has stopped it, instead having a review.

The Government has since been criticised that it is moving too slow to introduce regulations to the e-cigarette market.

"We've suddenly let this massive market creep happen out there without any regulations around it or any concern around how youth are taking it up," Ms O’Dwyer said.

1 NEWS has contacted Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa about the matter for several days but she was unavailable for comment.

The number of 14 and 15-year-olds in New Zealand to have tried e-cigarettes is rising fast. Source: 1 NEWS