Wage subsidy ‘must be earned’

Monday August 17, 2020 Written by Published in Local
Danny Mataroa pruning passionfruit plant at his Tupapa farm. 20081620/ 20081621 Danny Mataroa pruning passionfruit plant at his Tupapa farm. 20081620/ 20081621

A respected Tupapa grower is calling employees on wage subsidy to do community service, if they don’t have any work left at their resorts.

Danny Mataroa says he is aware there are a number of employees who are staying at home and collecting the wage subsidy “because they don’t have any more work to do”.

“There are so many other things they can do. They can help growers like us for a couple of hours per day so when the tourism industry resumes, they will have a better understanding of how the value chain works. They will know when they want 20 nus, it’s not going to be straightaway.”

Last month, Ministry of Internal Affairs said workers on government’s minimum wage subsidy can stay home and collect their pay under a sort of furlough, defined as an extended leave with or without pay.

The ministry said this was not a recognised practice under the Employment Relations Act 2012. However, it said Covid-19 leave with pay as a form of furlough is possible.

“The wage subsidy can also be used for the continued payment of the wages to the employee on minimum rate if there is no new work programme available for the employee. The employee can go on leave and continue to receive the wage subsidy in order to maintain the employment relationship.”

Liana Scott, the acting president of Tourism Industry Council, earlier disputed this arrangement, saying it will discourage those employers who are still making their employees work for the wage subsidy.

“If they don’t have any more work, they can get their staff to do community work like repainting the church or cleaning the beach.”

Danny Mataroa said: “There are many of us locals who are still working 80 hours per week to make ends meet, even though we are only getting paid for 20 hours of work through the subsidy. It’s not fair when there are others who sit at home and receive their wage subsidy.

“I thought we are all in this together, I don’t see that happening now.”  

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