Wellington City Council workers, as well as some contractors, will receive the living wage rate of $20.20 an hour from 1 July following the release of the council’s annual plan, with wages for other contractors also set to increase as their contracts come up for renewal.
The announcement, made by the Wellington City Council this week, has been welcomed by trade unions including E tū, New Zealand’s largest private sector union, and the Public Service Association (PSA).
E tū Campaign lead organiser Mat Danaher said the announcement will immediately benefit around 100 E tū members, including cleaners, security guards, and parking wardens, both directly employed by the council and employed by contractors.
E tū, which has been campaigning for employers to introduce the living wage in New Zealand since 2012, expects increases to be rolled out to other contract workers shortly.
PSA said it was is heartened to see significant progress made by Wellington City Council towards being New Zealand’s first Living Wage Council.
“Congratulations to the Mayor and councillors, who have made a big step today by voting to pay a Living Wage to all directly employed workers and those working for council controlled organisations,” said Kerry Davies, PSA acting national secretary.
“Wellington City Council are setting an example for other councils and central Government, and we hope others will take note and follow suit,” said Davies.
“A Living Wage is essential for low-paid workers. It makes economic sense, it’s fair and supported overwhelmingly by citizens, and it shows real leadership from the council.”
Living wage a show of recognition
INCLEAN NZ understands the vast majority of workers will be moving to the living wage immediately, however, there some who have to wait until the contacts with their employers are renewed.
Currently Wellington-based Fresh Desk is only one cleaning company in New Zealand that is an accredited Living Wage Employer. According to Danaher there are a number of cleaning companies in New Zealand who do pay the living wage on specific contracts, however, this is when the customer agrees to pay the cleaning company at a rate that allows the company to pay a living wage, while maintaining profit margins.
Danaher told INCLEAN NZ he believes the introduction of the living wage in New Zealand will make more commercial cleaning companies consider “upping their wages”.
“They will be competing for the best staff with Wellington City Council contracts, we know that introducing the living wage leads to better staff engagement, and a mutual sense of value and respect between worker and employer.
“It’s our view that society wrongly attaches a low value to essential cleaning work, and the living wage is an important as it recognises the skill and hard work that goes into professional cleaning,” he said.
Move to echo across the country
The decision by Wellington City Council is expected to echo across the country, with Auckland Council to move directly employed staff towards the living wage from September this year, including a number of directly employed cleaners.
“We believe that if Wellington City Council can do this, so can other councils, and other employers,” Danaher said.
“Thanks to a massive campaign to encourage submissions to Auckland’s public budget consultation process, Auckland Council have voted to start rolling out the living wage to around 2000 directly employed workers from September this year.
“Thousands of Auckland ratepayers said they wanted to see the living wage extended to contracted workers, and we will be working with the council and the cleaning companies to make that happen.”
Image Credit: Etu