Candidates divided on living wage, public holidays

Participating in a Unions Otago Mayoral Candidates Forum at Dunedin North Intermediate School...
Participating in a Unions Otago Mayoral Candidates Forum at Dunedin North Intermediate School Hall last night are (from left) Cr Lee Vandervis, Rachel Elder, Cr Andrew Whiley, Abe Gray, Cr Aaron Hawkins and Scout Barbour-Evans (obscured). Also present were Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and Jim O'Malley, Photo Peter McIntosh
Questions  about the living wage and working on public holidays were posed at the Unions Otago Mayoral Candidates Forum in North Dunedin last night.

An audience of about 70 listened to 10 of the 11 candidates - Scout Barbour-Evans, Athol Bayne, Rachel Elder, Abe Gray, Jim O'Malley, Barry Timmings, Mayor Dave Cull, and councillors Aaron Hawkins, Lee Vandervis and Andrew Whiley - answer questions posed by University of Otago department of politics Associate Prof Brian Roper. Candidate Conrad Stedman was absent.

The first question was "what is your understanding of the living wage and what is your commitment to ensuring that directly employed and contracted Dunedin City Council workers are meeting the living wage standard [of $19.80 per hour]?''

Cr Whiley did not support the council paying staff the living wage.

"The $19.80 living wage is an Auckland number, it's not a Dunedin number.''

The cost of living in Dunedin was cheaper than in Auckland.

He supported a living wage of about $18 per hour in Dunedin.

Mr O'Malley supported the council paying at least $19.80 to staff.

"The impact would be tiny and the effect would be enormous because it says we are an important employer in the city, we are a leader and you should follow us and we need to send that message out.''

Prof Roper then asked the candidates if they were committed to protecting people from working on public holidays.

Cr Hawkins said the labour laws were "stacked against'' workers, who would not be able to request public holidays off.

"I don't think everyone has the leverage to enter into that conversation with their boss,'' Cr Hawkins said, to applause.

Workers needed stronger protection in labour laws to create "an even playing field'' so the conversations could be had between bosses and staff.

Cr Whiley said there were times people needed to work on public holidays.

An example was when 8000 cruise ship passengers would visit Dunedin on Christmas Day next year.

"With 8000 visitors coming, there is huge opportunities for this city and for the workers and those businesses.''

Scout Barbour-Evans disagreed with the need for Dunedin to remain open next Christmas.

"I think tourism is a poor argument to be making . . .if someone chooses to be on a cruise on Christmas Day, they shouldn't be so entitled to expect people in Dunedin to drop seeing their family just so they can serve them burgers.''


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