'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.

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