Living wage buys quality time

Wardens celebrate life on the living wage

Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014
Esau Taniela
FAMILY TIME: Esau Taniela will have more time at home with wife Shalanei and daughter Cascade when parking wardens will become Wellington City Council employees, qualifying him for a living wage.

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For two Wellington parking wardens, an extra $4 an hour means spending more time with their baby daughters.

Esau Taniela and Mark Spaull will be among about 450 Wellington City Council staff enjoying a living wage when the parking service is brought back in-house at the city council later this month.

The council is spending an extra $750,000 on top of its annual $80 million wage bill to implement a living wage.

The first staff members started receiving it on January 1, and all staff will be brought on to it in July.

But while it's a win for the wardens, the Service and Food Workers' Union says attention now turns to contracted workers such as cleaners, and staff at council-owned companies who don't qualify.

The living wage is defined as the amount workers need to survive on, while also participating in society. Taniela, 22, says the jump up from $14.40 will make a huge impact on his family - he and his wife Shalanei, 21, welcomed daughter Cascade four months ago.

Instead of working up to 50 hours a week to scrape by, he could drop back to 40, and even look at saving for a holiday, he said.

Plus, he would have more quality time with his young family ". . . going and doing things that families are supposed to be doing, other than me living at work."

Before the council decided to bring the service back in-house, the prospect of providing for his family looked "bleak".

"If it wasn't for the living wage campaign, and for the union, we'd just be stuck where we have been for the past year."

Spaull, 25, said he was working about 75 hours a week to care for his fiancee and daughter Alexis, who is almost 4 months old.

Being able to cut back to 40 hours meant he could have quality time at home, rather than working seven days a week and seeing Alexis for about two hours a day.

"More time to relax, sit back, watch this little brat grow up."

SFWU national secretary John Ryall said having 450 council staff moving on to a living wage was a "momentous" step for public bodies in New Zealand.

The next step was to work with the council to ensure contracted staff, including cleaners, who were among the lowest paid, and employees of council-owned companies were also brought up to a living wage. That was doable by making it a condition of tender contracts, he said.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said council companies had been asked to report back on the implications of a living wage, and senior managers were also investigating how to make it a contractual condition.

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- The Dominion Post


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