Hotel breaks $20-an-hour


A Queenstown hotel’s lifting its minimum wage to $20 an hour in a possible first for the local hotel industry.

The Rees Hotel’s putting in the new rate for entry-level staff this coming Monday due to Queenstown’s high cost of living.

“If we want to have a good workforce in Queenstown who are skilled and motivated, you’ve got to pay them,” general manager Mark Rose says.

He notes his hotel’s always paid well above the minimum wage since it opened 10 years ago.

“Our commitment was always to pay people as much as we possibly could.”

Most recently, his minimum entry rate’s been $18 an hour, adjusted to $18.50 after three months.

In April, the government lifted the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour.

It’s also committed to raising it to $20 an hour by 2021.

Rose says local hospo staff earning around the minimum wage have to work 60 hours a week “cos Queenstown’s so expensive”.

But as a result “you’re bloody knackered”.

By paying his staff more, Rose says he can restrict his staff to 45 hours a week.

“If you start working 60 hours a week, you get injured, you get sick, you get grumpy.

“We want to make sure we look after people so that they enjoy coming to work, they share their stories and our guests benefit from that.”

Given how well the local hotel industry’s occupancy rates and room yields are going, “it’s a no-brainer to give something back which is ultimately going to help us in the long term”.

Rose says retaining staff, by paying them well, also reduces the “huge cost” of recruiting and training staff.

He adds that it could also help make hotel jobs more appealing to Kiwi workers who normally shun the resort due to its high living costs.

Rose says the new entry-level wage will also have a ripple-on effect for other Rees Hotel staff, whose rates will be lifted when they come up for annual review.

While possibly setting a new benchmark for Queenstown’s larger hotels, many other tourist operators already pay over the odds to hire and retain staff.

Early this year, for example, Real Journeys also lifted its minimum wage for permanent staff to $20 an hour.