3 Aug 2017

Living wage adopted for Chch council workers

7:04 pm on 3 August 2017

The Christchurch City Council has become the third local body to adopt the living wage for those it employs directly.

Christchurch city council

Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The pay rise for the council's lowest-paid workers was passed today with just two councillors voting against it.

The $20.20 an hour payment will benefit 470 of its staff and cost $750,000.

Looking on were members of the unions representing these staff and a member of the steering committee for the living wage campaign, Karena Brown.

Karena Brown was ecstatic that the council had voted to introduce a living wage for its workers.

Karena Brown was ecstatic the council had voted to introduce a living wage for its workers. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

"It's great we're leading this because we need to lead in this... if the city council leads then the other big organisations in Christchurch can do it as well."

Ahead of the vote, councillor Aaron Keown made an impassioned plea for his colleagues to do the right thing.

"Lay your cards on the table here because this is your chance to look working class people in the eye and say we value you. You are parents, you are children, you are brothers and sisters, we value you, we value the toilets you clean, the trenches you dig and the walls you paint. You're an important part of our society."

Mayor Lianne Dalziel pointed to decisions by National's Ruth Richardson in the early '90s as being to blame for the fact a living wage campaign was even needed.

"We're being asked to solve a problem that was created out of a deliberate attempt to destroy collective bargaining at the same time as reducing benefits. That meant there was a bottom line where the minimum wage couldn't fall [and instead] it got dropped. And the minimum wage was not increased for nine years."

One of two councillors to vote against the living wage, Jamie Gough, warned of a snowball effect with workers in the private sector suddenly expecting a similar pay rise from employers.

"All of a sudden you've got someone that came in yesterday, a teenager that was paid $17 an hour and there is a team leader in the same sector that's paid $21. Now all of a sudden if that teenager that came in yesterday is paid $20.20, I can tell you there's going to be an impact on the person that's paid $21 that is their team leader."

And it's not just staff employed directly by the council, such as life guards, that could benefit from the pay rise.

Councillors also asked for a staff report on the cost of extending the living wage to those employed as contractors and staff working for council-controlled organisations such as the airport, representing thousands of workers across the city.

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