The Chamber of Commerce conducted an on-line survey of employers. Previous surveys conducted by the Chamber had received and received responses from 80+ companies across most industry sectors, with approximately 20% coming from the Pa Enua, notably Aitutaki. However, on this occasion, doubtless due to time constraints, responses were only received from 37 companies. While the response rate does not constitute a statistically rigorous survey, there were consistent trends which allowed qualitative inferences to be drawn from the results, particularly including from the comments sections of the survey.
Of those employers polled, 95% paid all their employees above the minimum wage, 84% paid all above $6.50, and 78% paid all their employees above $7.50. 84% said that a 25c increase in the minimum wage would have no impact on their business, 75% said a 25c or 50c increase would have no impact, 62% would not be impacted by a $1.00 increase and 46% would experience no impact from a $2.00 increase.
When asked what employers thought the minimum wage should be, 8% favoured the current rate of $6.25, while 92% favoured an increase. Of these, 8% wanted to see $6.50, 8% wanted $6.75, 30% wanted $7.00, 5% wanted $7.50, 16% wanted $8.00, and 24% wanted various higher rates.
The vast majority of private sector employers have few if any employees on the minimum wage, and most pay $7/hour and above. Most employers favour an increase in the minimum wage, either by way of a regular, modest annual increase, or a fairly substantial increase now. There was clear support for the minimum wage keeping at the very least abreast of inflation.
Most felt that a modest increase of 10-50 cents would have little or no negative impact on their businesses. A substantial number indicated positive impact from an increase, including increased productivity, easier recruitment and improved staff retention.
The Chamber initially recommended an increase for 2017 to $6.75, on the basis that we had previously recommended a 25c/year increase, and it has been 2 years since the last increase (to $6.25). However, the eventual consensus (negotiated by representatives of employers/employees/community/government) was that, on that basis, minimum wage earners had missed out on 25c/hour for the last 12 months. Therefore an increase now to $7 would redress the delay.
Therefore $7 became the consensus recommendation to the Minister, which he agreed and passed to Cabinet.