Cafe leads way with 'living wage'

00:00, Jul 01 2014
Tomato cafe
FAIR TRADE: Tomato cafe worker Yvonne Ngatai talks about her job and Tomato Cafe moving to a living wage pay system.

A Palmerston North cafe is one of the first in the country to become accredited as a living-wage employer.

It was announced today that Tomato Cafe, along with 22 other businesses, community groups and unions across the country, have fulfilled the criteria set by the Living Wage Accreditation Board, entitling them to promote themselves as living-wage employers and use the Living Wage Employer trademark.

Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand developed an accreditation system to advise consumers when an employer is paying all staff the current living wage of $18.80 an hour or more.

Yvonne Ngatai, 25, has gone from living pay cheque to pay cheque to living comfortably since she started working at the cafe less than three months ago.

She worked at a different cafe in Palmerston North previously for 2 years where she was on the legal minimum wage.

The money wasn't bad, she said, but she was living week to week.


"I just went away this weekend and saw my dad, he lives in Auckland, I haven't seen him in a year. That was quite cool. It would take a lot longer for me to do that in my last job.

"Now I can put money aside and save for things."

She said being on the living wage made her want to work harder as she felt appreciated.

Tomato Cafe owner James Pettingill said he had been paying most of his staff the living wage for many years and hoped by becoming accredited he would inspire others to follow suit.

"I would like to show some leadership within the hospitality sector in Palmerston North.

"In an industry where success pivots on the fulcrum of your staff's discretionary effort, it makes no sense to view your most valuable asset - human capital - as a liability."

Living Wage Aotearoa Movement New Zealand convener Annie Newman said they were yet to have large corporations apply to be accredited, despite most of them paying the majority of their staff more than the living wage.

"It's not a big step financially for them to do it . . . maybe it hasn't come across their radar."

Under the Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand system, all staff must earn the living wage, including those employed by contractors, such as cleaners.

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