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May 15, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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VUW Demonstration in Support of Living Wage

Over 200 students and staff attended the Living Wage Day event in the Hub on May 10.

The event was organised by Living Wage Wellington and included guest speakers from VUW staff and performances from the Samoan Student Association. Attendants included Wellington City Councillor Brian Dawson, Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle, and VUW Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.

Laban accepted, on behalf of the university administration, over 2,000 postcards from Living Wage Wellington. The postcards included messages from staff, students, and members of the public calling for VUW to adopt the living wage.

Numerous VUW employees and contractors spoke at the event, including security, cleaning, and library staff.

Rebecca Kuach told her story of being a single mother struggling to raise four children on the wage she gets from her cleaning job, for which she gets up at 4.30am.

A running theme of underappreciation and undervaluing of work linked the stories of those who spoke.

VUW Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford told Salient in an interview on March 27 that while he supported the same end of a fair wage for employees, VUW would not at this stage be signing on as a Living Wage employer.

Although 98% of staff directly employed by VUW are paid at or above the current rate prescribed by the Living Wage — $20.20 as of  July 1 — those who are contracted through a third party, such as cleaners and security staff, are generally employed at much lower rates.

Guilford told Salient that “we need to look a bit more assertively” in relation to the wages paid to contractors.

VUW recently introduced a standard question in its procurement process asking potential suppliers to outline their stance on the Living Wage, with the response being taken into consideration during the evaluation of supplier bids.

Living Wage Wellington Coordinator Lyndy McIntyre expressed concern about the “absolute poverty rates of pay” of those contracted to work at VUW. “There are around 90 cleaners here and they are on the minimum wage of $15.75. […] They work horrendous hours, they’re cleaning up vomit, they’re disposing of needles.”

McIntyre was confident that a Living Wage for all workers at VUW was possible. “All the values that are in the strategic plan are absolutely consistent with ensuring that every worker within in VUW workforce is paid the wage they need to live a decent life.”

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