Labour takes meaningful first step on living wage


The Public Service Association says a commitment from the Labour leader David Cunliffe on introducing a living wage for public service workers is a meaningful first step in the battle against low pay.

The PSA represents 58,000 workers in the public and state sectors, district health boards, and local government and community public services.

It estimates about 14 percent of its members, mainly women, are not earning the living wage which is calculated at $18.40 an hour.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff says “there is a perception that public servants and those in DHBs and local government earn decent wages, but we have thousands of members such as librarians, DHB clerical and administration staff, public service workers, call centre employees and a raft of others earning less than the living wage.”

“It would be great to see the government, as the country’s largest employer, setting the example and standard on fair wages.”

“It’s also encouraging to hear Mr Cunliffe talking about plans to eventually roll out the living wage to workers in the wider state sector, and more importantly to those who work for government contracted services.  That is really where a meaningful difference can be made in terms of lifting wages and narrowing the widening gap between rich and poor,” Mr Wagstaff says.

The PSA says chronic government underfunding of many community public services is also denying thousands of people such as low-paid home support and disability support workers a living wage.

“Provider organisations need proper levels of funding so that they can actually afford to pay their staff a living wage for the professional and valued work that they do.”

Richard Wagstaff says “if workers are given an opportunity to earn a living wage, they would not have to rely so heavily on government benefits such as Working for Families and accommodation allowances. 

“Providing a living wage should be seen as a valuable investment for everyone and Labour’s commitment to it is very welcome.”