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Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace recommended on March 14 that the Hutt City Council “support, in principle,” the living wage — and said he would encourage the Chief Executive to seek ways to pay the living wage to Council staff.
The living wage is the hourly rate required for a worker to survive and live off. It is estimated by the New Zealand Family Centre Social Policy Unit and has been raised, effective July 1, to $20.20 — the minimum wage is $15.25.
Wallace wants to implement a living wage for all Hutt Council employees. However he suggested that a provision of the Local Government Act may forbid the Council from paying employees anything but the most cost-effective wages.
Wallace told Salient that, “[t]he legal advice that we’ve been given to date has given us a little bit of reason for caution.” Hutt City Council has received separate and conflicting legal opinions from Wellington City Council and employee unions, and Wallace said they are seeking an independent legal opinion before moving forward on the issue.
The move also faces opposition — Wallace said that both the Taxpayer’s Union and the local Chamber of Commerce “were there in full force, spreading brimstone and fire.”
However Wallace remains convinced that his recommendation is the right thing to do. “We want everyone to have a wage so they can be productive members of their community, look after their family — particularly the children — and have a good family life.”
Victoria University is not currently a living wage employer. When questioned by Salient about the wage guidelines for 2017, Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford said, “we’re not being guided per se by the living wage […] but from memory I think it was $1200 we gave to all staff as a pay increase for this coming year, no matter if you’re in the lowest level or the highest level [pay bracket], which quite quickly moves the bottom end up in relation to the top end.”
The $1200 increase was the outcome of the latest round of bargaining between the university and the TEU and applies to all academic, professional, and general staff. It does not apply to those contracted to work at the university by a third party, such as cleaners.