A disgruntled Gisborne fruit picker has tackled minimum wage head on with Bill English as he visited Kaiaponi Farms today while on the campaign trail.
Robin Lane fired questions at the National Party leader as he was taking questions from the media, telling him workers "don't have any power" during pay negotiations with employers.
Since 2008, National has raised the minimum wage from $12 to $15.75.
"Given that we have got a strong economy why is it that the adult minimum wage only goes up like $0.25, I know you said that it is the cost of living but I mean that's not really true, it's not," Mrs Lane said.
Mr English then went on to explain how an employee's pay is a matter between them and their employer.
"They fundamentally decide it and the government puts a floor in there, at the minimum and we keep moving that floor up and that does keep people up roughly with the cost of living."
As the heated debate continued, Ms Lane responded, "when you've got negotiations with your employer about your wage, you don't have any power. Do you know what I mean?
"So if the National Government says, 'the adult minimum wage is going to be $16.50', there's no incentive for a company to raise the wages of their workers if they are doing well."
Mr English responded by saying, "The point you make, I think, is the opposite of what we were talking about before. We will continue to increase the minimum wage."
Interjecting, Mrs Lane said, "You've raised it $3.75 over nine years. Now, how would you like it if your hourly rate went up $3.75 over a period of nine years?"
"Look, it would be quite a challenge. No doubt about that," admitted Mr English.
"I tell you what. It's a huge challenge," Mrs Lane said.
"That's why we keep these consistent moderate increases flowing through, because that's how the wages, that's how the floor rises," Mr English said.
Varnish cache server