The struggle for teachers, nurses, police and other essential public service workers to stay ahead of the cost of living, and gain better recognition for the value of the work they do, has boiled over into strike action in some sectors this year.
Nine years of inaction under the National-led government has seen a lack of support for these hard-working New Zealanders.
They have faced increasing workloads with insufficient recognition or financial reward.
The coalition government has stepped up.
Only this week came the announcement that hospital services workers around the country will receive up to a 40 per cent pay rise over the next three years following a settlement between trade union E Tu and DHBs. It is a major investment by the DHBs and government in lifting the standard of living of some of our lowest paid workers.
We have settled with the nurses by addressing many of their concerns. Teachers, however, have rejected the most recent offer and have mooted the possibility of further strike action planned for the New Year.
We understand that teachers have felt neglected over the past decade and we are committed to rebuilding public education and elevating the status of teaching.
Already this year we have made a pay offer far more generous than anything they received
under National, have committed to addressing the teacher shortage and increasing the supply and pay of learning support staff, among other initiatives.
New Zealand First believes a strong economy and a fair country is one where all of those that are prepared to work hard and give their precious time to their employers are paid a wage or salary that supports themselves and their families.
This is why we negotiated an increase to the minimum wage of $20 per hour by 2021, and introduced a tax package for businesses to ensure they could afford to pay it.
We cannot fix everything immediately, but I am proud to be part of a government that is finally treating workers with the respect they deserve.