Wellington City Proposal to Lead on Living Wage

6 December 2013

Around 450 of Wellington’s lowest paid people work for Wellington City Council and are in line to be among the first workers in New Zealand to move up to an $18.40-an-hour living wage rate from 1 January 2014.

The proposal asks Council to agree that a living wage rate should be seen as part of a wider workforce management strategy to encourage greater productivity, career pathways, a commitment to public service and to address a low wage issue within parts of Council.

Wellington City led the country’s councils in its in-principle agreement regarding a living wage. It decided in June that $250,000 would be allocated in this year’s budget to provide for implementation from 1 January 2014.

A further $500,000 is expected to be set aside for full implementation from 1 July 2014 with the cost being offset by savings identified from changes in Council’s CCOs.

Those primarily affected by the proposed new rates will be among Council’s front line operations such as parks, gardens, recreation and library services.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says she is proud the Council is showing leadership by enabling some of Wellington’s lowest paid to more effectively participate in society. "Our proposed approach acknowledges the rate recommended by Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand and includes emphasis on training and up-skilling.

"This will help staff on lower rates to lift their skills and equip them to add even greater value in delivering our frontline services. We want people to be proud of working for a Council that emphasises these values."

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester says that for Council the decision is also about reducing workforce turnover, currently around 30 per cent per annum, and improving workplace culture.

Community, Sport and Recreation Committee Chair Councillor Paul Eagle says there’s long been a concern from Wellingtonians about the growing poverty and inequality in their city,

"We know we’re a wealthy city - but there are still ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ – and ‘the have nots’ are doing as bad as anywhere else in New Zealand and it’s unacceptable that a significant number of Wellington workers are part of the working poor."

"Becoming a living wage council and encouraging other employers to do the same will improve the economic prosperity and quality of life of all Wellingtonians," says Cr Eagle.

The proposal includes consideration of whether to ask the boards of its council-controlled organisations to, themselves, consider introducing a living wage rate to their lowest paid staff. The boards will be asked to report-back on the financial implications as part of deliberations of the 2015/16 Long Term Plan with planned implementation from 1 July 2015

Councillor Lester adds that this is a positive step forward. "We recognise a number of staff employed in our CCOs or contractors are not covered under this initial proposal and we’re committed to making sure they’re not left out.

"Council staff will report back to Council in our 2015/16 Long Term Plan about how this can be achieved."