Kapiti Needs a Living Wage

Living Wage campaigners and supporters in Wellington

It’s time Kapiti started talks for a Living Wage 

By Lyndy McIntyre, Living Wage co-ordinator

Kapiti Independent News recently published two stories on the Living Wage.

It’s certainly a significant time for the Living Wage movement, with the announcement of the 2017/18 Living Wage employers and a historic vote by Wellington City Council.

The list of fully accredited Living wage employers has grown nationally to nearly 80. And a Kapiti College student, Patrick Bray, has asked locals to support Living Wage products and challenged local employers to step up and be the first in our district.

Roger Childs has asked when the KCDC will follow Wellington City Council’s example and adopt the Living Wage for the Council workforce.

Unanimous support in WCC

This is timely. On 28 June, Wellington City councillors unanimously endorsed an annual plan which sets WCC on a path to become New Zealand’s first Living Wage council.  

Wellington’s Mayor, Justin Lester, and supporters celebrate the WCC’s commitment to a Living Wage

From 1 July, WCC has been paying all directly-employed workers, and those employed in council controlled organisations, the NZ official Living Wage rate of $20.20.  

Also included are around 60 cleaners and security guards who are employed via contractors.

There is also a commitment to deliver the Living Wage for all council workers working for contractors who deliver services on behalf of council in a regular and ongoing way, with cleaners and waste workers the priority. And the WCC will seek accreditation as an official Living Wage employer in this council term.

The pay rise will transform the lives of hundreds of low paid workers and their families — workers like Anne who says: “In 2011 my husband and I came from Samoa for a better life.

“But the work we got was cleaning on the minimum wage. We’ve got a toddler and a baby on the way.

“My husband works nights and I do mornings. We had to work long hours to get by and never saw each other. Our pay barely covered our rent, power and food. We were squeezed into a tiny room and we never made ends meet.

“Now we get the Living Wage. We’ve reduced our hours and spend time with our child. We’ve moved into a two-bedroom place with space for our baby to play. We are not living a life of luxury but it just got better.”

Wellingtonians committed to a Living wage

Wellington City Council made a commitment to adopting the Living Wage in June 2013. The proposal was consulted on in successive annual plan processes and overwhelmingly backed by Wellingtonians.  Now Wellington will not just be the “Coolest Little Capital”, but the “Fairest Little Capital”.

Auckland Council has begun the process of adopting the Living Wage for all directly-employed workers by 2019 and, closer to home, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Porirua and Hutt councils have all taken steps towards adopting the Living Wage.

What does this mean for KCDC?

Kapiti should follow Wellington’s example

The KCDC should follow WCC’s lead. The first step is to support the principle of becoming a Living Wage council and then work through the best way to achieve this.

It doesn’t have to happen all at once and it may not be a big expense. But it is simply not acceptable for our community leaders to employ workers on less than the Living Wage.

Everywhere commitment to the Living wage have been won, this has been the result of a call from local communities. In Wellington, Auckland, Porirua and Hutt City, faith groups, unions and community organisations have united in the Living Wage Movement to build power in the community to call on their political leaders to adopt the Living Wage.

Time for Kapiti to catch up

It’s time for Kapiti Coast District Council to catch up and start the conversation about the Living Wage. If you’re part of a faith group, community organisation or union or simply a supporter who wants to address inequality in our community, contact me. lyndy.mcintyre@livingwage.org.nz

( Editor’s note: Lyndy McIntyre lives in Paekakariki and is the regional coordinator of the Living Wage Movement (Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ).  Between 2007 and 2010 she was a Kapiti Coast District Councillor)

Thanks Jackie and Geoff for your comments. The Living Wage is about reducing inequality, so it is very pertinent to suggest flattening high salaries as a starting point. A freeze on high salaries could raise substantial income to address the rates at bottom. It is common for the cost of adopting the Living Wage to be exaggerated and I would be interested in a breakdown of the $2milion figure. Also, research shows that the adoption of the Living Wage results in many benefits, including lower recruitment costs, less absenteeism, higher morale and increased productivity. Committing to the principle of paying fair wages is something KCDC could do as starting point and then work out the best way to achieve this in a staged implementation. This is a conversation we can have in the community. Do we want our council to make it a priority to be a good employer and pay our council workforce the Living Wage? I certainly do.

I agree with you 100%: the council has been the leader of inequality in Kapiti and suffers from having ‘too many Chiefs and not enough Indians’. I want to see adequately paid workers doing things in the field, not a legion of desk bureaucrats on enormous salaries.

Yes, the living wage was proposed during discussion on the 2015-2016 Annual Plan, and again for the 2016 LTP, I know, I asked and both times the response was that it is a million dollar question for KCDC. Meaning it would add another million dollars to each years annual salary bill. This would add a further full 2% to the rates increases……I wonder how residents feel about that.
The reason cities like Wgtn and Auckland and even smaller district’s in our region can afford it is because a higher percentage of their rates income is directly sourced from a business rate, not residential, so the impact of such schemes here would be borne by residents who currently pay 95% of rates. Businesses pay the other 5% in Kapiti

This discussion is timely and topical, I applaud Lyndy for her efforts, perhaps she would like to make a submission on the LTP. Meanwhile we have just started discussion in Council on the rating mechanism review and I would like to see an outcome being more parity between residents and businesses.