No move by council on living wage

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013
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There could be at least 20 Timaru District Council staff earning below the "living wage" of $18.40 an hour, but there are no plans yet to change the situation.

The council provided the figures to the Herald in the wake of the Wellington City councillors' vote in favour of introducing a minimum living wage for fulltime staff.

Timaru district chief executive Peter Nixon said that of the 162 fulltime council staff, 20 would likely receive less than $18.40 an hour.

He said it could cost the council an extra $54,500 a year to implement changes.

However, Mr Nixon said this was only a "rough calculation", as it did not take into account changes to other staff members' wages or how it could affect the wages for part-time staff.

Last week, Wellington councillors voted 9-5 in favour of phasing in a living wage for staff directly employed by the council from January 1. The councillors also agreed to budget a further $750,000 in the 2014-15 draft budget to ensure full implementation from July 1 next year.

The current minimum wage (before tax) is $13.75 an hour for adults, while the minimum "starting out wage" for people aged 16 to 19 is $11 an hour.

Timaru Mayor Damon Odey said the issue was complicated.

"It's not something we've discussed as a council yet, and if we did, we would have to make sure we did it right," he said. "We don't want the situation like in Hamilton where they had to rescind the proposal [in July] because they under-estimated how much it could cost the council and therefore the ratepayer."

Earlier this year, a range of organisations, including the Council of Trade Unions, Public Service Association and the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand launched the "living wage" campaign, as they felt the minimum wage was insufficient to provide for the basic needs of a family.

The Timaru District Council employs 295 staff on a full or part-time basis, not including contractors. For the year ending July, the council spent about $13.47 million on staff wages, up 10.4 per cent on the previous financial year.

Corporate services manager Tina Rogers said the increase was due to Caroline Bay Aquatic Centre opening and the extra staff employed to run the complex.

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- The Timaru Herald

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