Council to pay staff a living wage

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 15:34 11/12/2013
Wellington City Council - Living Wage debate
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

BIG NUMBERS: Living Wage supporters pack out a Wellington City Council meeting.

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Wellington City Council has confirmed it will pay its staff a living wage - the first council in the country to do so. 

A city council committee this afternoon voted in favour of phasing in a living wage for staff directly employed by the council from January 1.

The 9-5 vote also saw councillors agree to budget a further $750,000 in the 2014-15 draft budget to ensure full implementation from July 1 next year.

The draft budget already includes a further $500,000 and the additional $250,000 wil be funded from savings from the "wider personnel budget".

Councillors are in the midst of debating the draft annual plan which will go out for consultation early next year.

The council has 450 staff earning below the living wage - $18.40 an hour, defined as the amount for workers to be able to live while also participating in society. 

But while direct council employees will benefit, contractors and employees of council-owned companies are not included after officers warned there were many complicated issues still to work through. 

Instead councillors agreed that those issue should be investigated further and a plan for including those staff developed in time for inclusion in the 2015 long term plan. 

Earlier in the day living wage campaigners had urged councillors to include those workers in long term implementation plans. 

"That is a tangible timeframe that gives these people hope," Rev Brian Dawson told councillors.

The council had to ensure "lowest paid workers are not left behind", he said.

"This is not asking for an act of charity, this is asking for the first step to achieving justice."

Campaigners included parking warden Esa Taniela, who explained he was expecting his first child in a month and was getting married in a week, but had to work up to 70 hours a week to survive. 

He and his colleagues were excited to hear council workers would receive a living wage, but were "crushed when they found it was only for those directly employed, not contracted". 

This afternoon councillors argued it was important to recognise the contribution of te lowest paid workers. 

"I'm proud to put my name to this," Iona Pannett said. 

Paul Eagle said the question wasn't whether it should be done, but rather "is doing nothing an option"?

"When are we going to put, I guess, the working poor of Wellington first?"

However, other councillors questioned the level of work and said more information about the implications had to be done before it was implemented. 

"We still haven't come to the situation where we have got it right," Simon Woolf said. 

The committee's decision will go to the full counc for sign off later this month. 

HOW THEY VOTED

For:

Celia Wade-Brown, Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Paul Eagle, Sarah Free, David Lee, Justin Lester, Iona Pannett, Mark Peck, Helene Ritchie

Against:

Jo Coughlan, Simon Marsh, Malcolm Sparrow, Simon Woolf, Nicola Young

Absent:

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Andy Foster

- The Dominion Post

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