Mayor supports living wage for Wellington

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:59 11/02/2013

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Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is keen to see a living wage introduced in the capital.

City leaders attended a seminar led by Living Wage campaigner Deborah Littman this morning, ahead of Thursday's announcement of a Kiwi Living Wage in Auckland.

The rate is expected to be between $18 and $20 an hour, and will form the basis of a campaign to improve wages of New Zealand's lowest paid workers.

Calculated by the Anglican Church's Family Centre in Lower Hutt, the wage is ''the minimum amount a person needs to earn to support their family at an adequate standard of living'', Ms Littman said this morning.

Led by unions, the campaign will focus on major employers, including local councils and central government, adopting a living wage policy, rather than trying to seek legislative change.

At this morning's seminar, attended by city councillors and local community service leaders, Ms Littman outlines how the campaign had been rolled out in the UK, where about 100,000 employees now earn a living wage.

Tory Mayor Boris Johnson is among those who have supported the living wage, with a London wage of £8.55 ($15.62) being paid to about 45,000 people.

A living wage allowed people to work just one job to survive, freeing up time for people to spend with their families and in the community, Ms Littman said.

Low pay was at the heart of many social problems, she said.

''This is a problem of people working their socks off and not being able to provide for their children.''

There were also benefits to employers, with evidence that there was lower turnover in places that people were paid a living wage, as opposed to a minimum wage, she said.

Following the seminar, Ms Wade-Brown said she was ''excited'' by the campaign and she was keen to see the council adopt a living wage.

''We have to do the feasibility study, I'd very much like to move towards a living wage.''

The council would likely look at introducing a policy, but first there would be ''a lot of talking and a lot of listening to see what the best approach is for our capital''.

However, not all councillors at the seminar seemed convinced.

Bryan Pepperell questioned the use of a living wage, when there was a wider issue of people being unemployed.

''I suggest what you're doing is a pretty minor fiddling and I don't think it's going to take us anywhere,'' he said during the seminar.

However, Prue Hyman, an economist involved in developing the wage, said unemployment and pay levels should not be treated exclusively.

''I see them as complimentary, not contradictory. I see it as essential that one social justice campaign isn't set against another ... we have to work on both fronts.''

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Lyndy McIntyre said after the wage was announced on Thursday, the focus would be on targeting major employers, including local authorities and central government.

''We'll immediately be calling on both central and local government, and other institutions that are funded by public money to take steps to implement a living wage.''

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @katiechapman28

- The Dominion Post

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