Congratulations to Wellington City Council for stepping up to Living Wage challenge

The Public Service Association says the Wellington City Council has stepped up to the challenge of addressing low pay and inequality by taking the first concrete step towards becoming New Zealand’s first Living Wage Council. The Council has today agreed to move its lowest paid staff up to the living wage rate of $18.40 an hour from January 1 next year. From July 2014, all entry level roles will also reflect the living wage.

The PSA estimates there are between 450-500 directly-employed staff earning below the living wage. They mainly work in the city’s libraries, pools, recreation facilities, parks and gardens and some administration roles. “Obviously this will boost the pay packets of those council staff who struggle on low wages and haven’t seen a meaningful pay increase for years, but there are also big benefits for the council as an employer,” says PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

Between June 2011 and March 2013 there were 463 resignations from across the Council and staff turnover is high at around 30 per cent. Brenda Pilott says “the Council has rightly looked to overseas evidence which shows that where the living wage has been introduced there have been marked reductions in staff turnover and absenteeism and it has also helped to foster more positive workplace cultures.” The PSA says while it wants to recognise the Council’s support for directly-employed staff, it is encouraging it to move quickly in passing on the same benefits to Council-contracted staff. Brenda Pilott says “we welcome this week’s decision to bring parking services back in-house which will make parking wardens eligible for the living wage.”

“However while the Council has agreed to look into the financial implications of extending the living wage to all workers in Council-controlled organisations and services, until it’s a reality, Wellington cannot rightfully claim to be a truly living wage city.” The PSA, as a member of Living Wage Wellington, will now be working with the council on how to implement the living wage fairly and will use the collective negotiations to address its impact on the rest of the pay system.