'Living wage' campaign support bid

The Dunedin City Council is being asked to support the Kiwi Living Wage campaign, despite a warning any pay rise for council staff could backfire for the city's most impoverished ratepayers.

The campaign, which would be formally unveiled later this week, was expected to include a push to lift the minimum wage from $13.50 an hour to between $18 and $20 an hour.

Dunedin city councillors at yesterday's council public forum were asked to back the campaign by Service and Food Workers' Union organiser Ann Galloway.

However, Cr Lee Vandervis warned the council employed a ''significant number'' of workers in some areas paid less than $18 an hour, including some library and cleaning staff.

Any pay rise for those council employees would have to covered by rates, meaning a rates rise for all ratepayers, including those already on minimum wages, he said.

''You would simply be taking it from one group of low-wage workers and giving it to another,'' he said.

Mrs Galloway said she would be happy to see her rates used in such a way, but accepted it might not be practical to suddenly give council employees a pay rise.

Instead, she wanted the council to be a leader by giving support for the campaign ''in principle'', at the very least, if implementation had to wait.

Speaking earlier, Mrs Galloway told councillors workers needed a living wage to ''survive and participate'' in society, and the council - like other employers - could play a role.

That could include giving council staff a pay rise as well as changing the way it used contractors, she suggested.

The council's procurement policy could be amended so decisions about which contractors the council employed were based in part on whether the companies offered their workers a living wage.

In return, employers like the council would receive benefits such as increased worker morale and productivity, and reduced absenteeism, she said.

At present, 270,000 children were estimated to be living in poverty, of which 40% were from families where at least one parent was in full-time employment, she told councillors.

Mayor Dave Cull told the meeting the council's procurement policy was already being reviewed by council chief executive Paul Orders.

Mrs Galloway's suggested changes to the policy would be referred to Mr Orders to consider as part of that work, Mr Cull said.

Not sure that would work.

"In return, employers like the council would receive benefits such as increased worker morale and productivity, and reduced absenteeism, she said."

This theory sounds good and may be true in the short term but management research over time has found the counter intuitive fact that increased pay doesn't increase productivity or reduce absenteeism over time. Rather this is the more complex issue of motivation which has more to do with work conditions and the individual workers aspirations.

I do however like the idea of increases in dollar terms rather than percentage terms. 

Real and actual wages

@Te Jackie. In the days of shiftwork penal rates, employees often earned more than supervisors, but really earnt their wages.

Lower the cost of living

We are all forgetting the other side of this equation. The living wage is based on the cost of living, so if the government can successfully lower the cost of living for the poorest among us then the living wage will also come down.

This is the preferred method of generating economic expansion in a time such as ours as the extra money people have left over after paying for the basics goes into the consumer economy, the economy expands and everybody wins.....

So how do we get retailers and landlords to reduce their rates I wonder?

Flow-on effects

This move has a dangerous flow-on effect, which was realized with Labour's push to abolish the youth rate when youths and school kids were suddenly on $13.50 per hour, other workers already on this rate wanted the same increase and so on and so on.

Raising the minimum wage to $18 or $19 would also raise the expectation of those workers or co workers already in this pay bracket - imagine being a supervisor on say $18.50 an hour whose charges are now on $19 an hour, and so on and so on.

Council can support union campaign

It wouldn't hurt the DCC to support the living wage campaign. It is unlikely to ever come about, as inequality is a structural component of our 'free' market. Cr Vandervis' warning is premature to say the least. Dunedin is still a working class city. Show some nominal solidarity, why don't you?

Percentage has been the problem

Since the days when unions negotiated a percentage increase, and when the government declared a general wage increase to keep up with inflation, percentage increases have been the driver of inequality. Hylander2 is "wondering did the cleaners receive the same percentage increase as the councillers" but what I'm wondering is, why aren't increases based on dollars rather than percentages? If everyone in a business, or in a union, got an extra $3 an hour the poorest would not keep slipping further behind the average wage. After all, the CEO's and the department manager's litre of petrol costs the same as the cleaner's. The same applies to their bag of potatoes, their car rego, their movie ticket, their washing machine repair.

living wage

What Cr Lee Vandervis also said was we currently pay our cleaners under 14.00 and hour I believe that is something no self respecting rate payer should be happy with and I'm wondering did the cleaners receive the same percentage increase as the councillers and why is it we would rather
have a stadium than keep 40% of children above the poverty line. Doesn't say much for the faith councillors have in us as ratepayers.

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