Living wage extended to Council security contractors in Wellington

28 October 2015

Wellington City Council tonight voted 9–6 to extend an $18.55-per-hour wage to contractors working under a proposed new contract to supply security services to the Council.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says: “The decision applies to a security contract with strong public roles including noise control, cash handling, guarding and mobile patrols. We expect improvements to the quality and effectiveness of these services and greater pride in delivery.”

Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, who seconded the motion that led to tonight’s decision, says he strongly believes a living wage rate encourages staff to stay on in tough and potentially dangerous jobs like those in the security industry. “It reduces turnover and increases stability – this is good not only for workers but for the industry, the Council and the community.

Cr Ahipene-Mercer adds: “It’s the right thing to do – it is cruel and unusual punishment to pay minimal wages to people doing important and hazardous work – especially in a city with the highest average wages in the country.”

In a first for the City Council, Councillor Paul Eagle joined the debate and cast his vote, in favour of the living wage, remotely from Perth where he is attending a housing conference.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester also successfully moved that the Council ensure there would be no additional costs to ratepayers. Councillors voted 8-7 to remove $250,000 from the Council’s personnel and travel budget to make the outcome fiscally-neutral. He said: “We know through our experience with our parking wardens, who are already on the living wage, that service levels improve along with staff morale and performance.”

Mayor Wade-Brown says cities worldwide that have led with applying a living wage have found that the workers who benefit tend to spend any increases locally. “The local community as a whole benefits, economically and socially.”

She told tonight’s meeting that she acknowledged advice from Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery and officers against the increased wage on legal grounds – principally that it could contravene the Local Government Act’s edicts relating to cost-effective spending.

“The Chief Executive is commended for his clear, frank and cautious advice. However our job as Councillors is to consider our commitment to a staged implementation of a living wage.

“The Council provides many services and runs many events that contribute to the vitality and the economic wellbeing of the Capital – many of these could be challenged under a narrow interpretation of what could be considered cost-effective – however the vast majority of the community is happy with this spending.

“The Christmas trees, Diwali and WOW, for example, are wonderful for retailers and other local businesses who have never queried whether they are absolutely the most cost-effective mechanism for economic success.”

Mayor Wade-Brown says wage levels for future Council contracts will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed security contract will cover Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council. The preferred supplier will not have to apply a living wage rate for work done for the Porirua and Kapiti councils.

Wellington City Council last year voted to pay an $18.40-per-hour living wage to a range of lower-paid ‘in-house’ staff including the likes of swimming pool life guards and parking wardens.