Kāpiti Living Wage?

Church/Union/Community leaders join campaign for decent wages for low-paid

By Alan Tristram

Kāpiti people have been urged to form a ‘Living Wage Community’ at a packed meeting to launch the ‘Living Wage’ campaign in Wellington.

The Labour leader David Shearer, Green co-leader Russel Norman, Mana leader Hone Harawira, Trade Unions’ leader Helen Kelly and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown joined  a large group of workers and community leaders at the launch in Wesley Church.

Workers from the Maori and Pasifica communities — whose members make up a large proportion of the low-paid — were particularly well represented.

The high point was a mass signing of a declaration saying: “A living wage is the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life.

“A living wage will enable workers to live with dignity and to participate as active citizens in society.

“We call on the Government, employers and society … to strive for a living wage for all households.”

The appeal for a ‘Living Wage Community’ in Kāpiti came after the main part of the meeting from John Ryall, secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union.

Mr Ryall said: “In the past the anti-nuclear movement really took off when cities and towns declared themselves nuclear-free.

“Now we think communities should become Living Wage Communities’ — and we hope that on the Kāpiti Coast you can form one.”

Mr Ryall said that as well as Labour,the Greens and the Mana Party, all the other major parties — with the notable exception of National — supported the idea.

The launch in Wellington, he said, was the second major event — the first was in Auckland at the end of May.

A Samoan community leader, Salevao Faaunga Manase, stressed the need to involve churches and communities in the movement.

And Helen Kelly, president of the Trade Unions Council, said the campaign was vital because unfortunately the social ‘deal’ around work had changed.

The  message now was that the people are ‘beneficiaries’ of work. And,she said, the ‘voice of Business New Zealand is that work is a charity.’

“It’s no longer the case that you can work and have a decent life. I don’t know when the new deal came in, but it’s not right!”

‘A dying wage’

A leading public health expert,Professor Don Matheson, spoke of the huge health and social problems caused by low wages.

Professor Matheson said a disproportionate amount of disease and early deaths occur among people on low incomes. So, he said, a ‘living wage’ is vital.

“At present a ‘Dying Wage’ is what low-income earners are getting,” he said. “This is ethically and morally unacceptable.”