New Zealand politicians plan pay freeze as workers strike

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand's lawmakers are planning to take a pay freeze at a time that teachers, nurses and other public workers have been going on strike for more money.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that politicians would turn down a planned 3 percent pay raise this year and would freeze their pay for 12 months while they worked out a fairer formula for future raises.

Ardern said there is an increasing gap between what low- and middle-income New Zealanders earn and what highly paid workers like politicians earn.

"Now this move doesn't save a lot of money in the scheme of things, but it does send, we believe, a strong signal about what our government values, what we stand for and our determination to make sure the economy is working for everyone," Ardern said.

The plan still needs to be approved by lawmakers. Ardern said that politicians from the ruling coalition had agreed on the measure and that it may also get support from opposition political parties.

Since Ardern's liberal government came to power last year, thousands of public workers have gone on strike demanding better pay and conditions.

About 30,000 nurses and health care workers went on a daylong strike last month, while nearly as many teachers and principals walked off the job for a day this month. The nurses have since reached an agreement that has ended the threat of further strike action.

Ardern is currently paid 471,000 New Zealand dollars ($312,000) and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is paid NZ$335,000 ($222,000). The other 118 lawmakers in Parliament are paid between NZ$164,000 and NZ$296,000, depending on their ranks and responsibilities.

By comparison, President Donald Trump is paid $400,000 annually. As a candidate, Trump promised not to take a salary. By law, he must be paid, so he has been donating the money.

Asked if New Zealand politicians were overpaid compared to those in countries with much larger populations, Ardern said she acknowledged they were high-income earners but said there was likely a range of factors in how systems in other jurisdictions worked.

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