We, parents in their declining years, have a family member who is a 40 year-old male with disability. A couple of weeks ago, he screwed up his courage to the sticking point – in order to overcome the barrier of extreme anxiety – and accepted the offer of work, in an effort to improve his own wellbeing and to contribute to the community as a whole.
The work was to deliver circulars and free local papers. A three-day slot was provided for the deliveries to be completed. It was understood that the payment would be $30, so about two hours work was expected when applying the minimum hourly rate.
The following day the papers arrived, later than agreed, so this put pressure on the timeframe. There were 10 different circulars running adverts for the well-known big companies. The weight of the papers was about 70kg (measured by using bathroom scales). They were promptly sorted by the family member and delivered in two trips on foot out of his own back pack.
The following morning, another batch of papers, part of the same job but still to be delivered, was found on the doorstep. They were the Hutt News and the Regional News, weighing around 50kgs. This time the delivery required two adults and the family car had to be used because of practicalities and the bulk of the papers involved – the alternative was multiple trips on foot involving extended time. The large backpack just did not have the necessary capacity.
More than 250 addresses were delivered to. The total time committed to the work was 10.47 hours and the expense for the car at IRD rates of 74 cents/km totalled $5. This makes the true cost of the work to be about $190.00 at the minimum hourly rate of $14.75.
The work experience served to accentuate extreme anxiety for the disabled person and it was necessary to advise the other party to the contract that further service could not be provided.
If $30 is the final sum that is paid (my understanding is that payment is still awaited but that it is likely to be $20 now, not $30), the actual hourly rate based on $30 will equate to under $3/hr for a 40 year old man who has contributed strenuous manual labor. Does this make sense, and is it right and just?
It seems to me that the ‘free economy’ has almost achieved its goal; that is competition has run its course to the point where human rights in Gods Own (NZ) are being contravened. This is because some of its citizens are now doing strenuous manual labour for almost nothing. If payment for the work is not made it will be less than nothing – at least $5.00 for the use of the family car and backpack has been expended. My guess is that this is not an isolated case.
I have just been watching a TV documentary about the “Death Railway” of Burma (1942/43), where men were worked, whipped and starved to death in order to support the economy. Is NZ unwittingly and blithely going down the same track? It looks as though it might be. After all I thought I heard the Chief Economist at the BNZ saying today that the NZ economy is doing well ..."lots of ticks on the right side of the ledger". What about the left side, where we might find the hearts and minds of the people that are the neediest?