The full story

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

Sosefina Masoe spends her nights in one of the most powerful offices in the country; from the top of the Beehive she can see the lights of the Wellington skyline and the moon reflecting on the harbour.

When the 49-year-old solo mum isn’t cleaning Prime Minister John Key’s office, she’s at home in her Porirua state house with her four teenage children and four grandchildren.

Masoe joined Parliament’s other cleaners in Labour’s caucus room today to push for a $15 an hour and to remind politicians that poverty does exist in this country.

First of all good on Ms Masoe for being in work, despite having eight kids and grand kids to care for. That’s excellent.

And from my time at Parliament, my memory of the cleaners are they were very hard working and professional. I am sure Ms Masoe is the same. And she is quite entitled to her view that she should be paid $15/hour. Personally I think that it is better to achieve that through negotiation than increasing the minimum wage. You can not create a more prosperous country by simply passing a law demanding everyone gets paid more. If only it was that easy.

She earns the current minimum wage, $13.50, and says that’s about $453.34 in the hand a week.

By the time she pays $250 in rent, $90 for power and $70 for petrol to get to and from work, Masoe has about $43 left to pay for groceries.

That usually consists of budget canned spaghetti and baked beans, cheap bread, oats, noodles and margarine.

“This is what our low wages can afford. It’s budget food, it’s not healthy,” she told MPs and fellow Service and Food Union representatives this afternoon.

Parliament’s cleaners worked hard for the health of those in the complex, they were “the most important people in your life” and deserved more, Masoe said.

“The cost of everything is going up, we can’t afford to feed our families with $13.50 an hour any more.”

Except that the family doesn’t just get $13.50 an hour.

Whale does some maths:

Her take home is $453 per week. Her WFF Credits are worth at least $677 per week if the article claims of eight children (four teens) are correct.  That equates to a salary of about $70,000 per annum.

Whale is correct except I actually make it that she gets $712 of WFF, which makes her gross income equivalent around $77,000. Also on top of that the taxpayer subsidises a state house so that it is only 25% of income maximum.

So when Labour plant a story about how someone has only $43 a week to pay for groceries for their family, it would be nice if the media thought to ask about total household income, because to be frank it is dishonest to ignore the other $700 a week of income.

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