Coun­cil deftly side­steps liv­ing wage cam­paign

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

There are plenty of ad­jec­tives to de­scribe nar­rowly avoid­ing some­thing: swerve, side­step, dodge, duck, kick for touch.

Any of th­ese could de­scribe what Porirua City coun­cil­lors did last week when de­cid­ing not to give their low­est-paid em­ploy­ees a liv­ing wage.

At the mo­ment, the min­i­mum wage is $15.25 and Liv­ing Wage Aotearoa has set the liv­ing wage at $19.80. That’s some dif­fer­ence, but one in which the liv­ing wage back­ers say is nec­es­sary for work­ers to be happy, feed their fam­i­lies and ex­ist as an in­cluded mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

Porirua City Coun­cil of­fi­cers came back to the An­nual Plan de­lib­er­a­tions last Thurs­day and said ‘‘no way, it’s too ex­pen­sive’’, as most neu­tral ob­servers ex­pected would hap­pen.

The liv­ing wage would add any­where be­tween $400,000 and $860,000 to the bur­den on ratepay­ers, de­pend­ing on who you lis­ten to, and it could have meant another one per cent in­crease to the rates rise this year.

So coun­cil­lors, heed­ing ad­vice from their of­fi­cers, sidestepped bring­ing the liv­ing wage in.

The amend­ment from Porirua mayor Nick Leggett to con­trib­ute $200,000 to the coun­cil’s low­est­paid work­ers saved the day – but only just.

The vote to in­clude the con­tri­bu­tion passed 5-4 and that was with two coun­cil­lors ab­sent.

Denys Latham and John Burke were from the Eastern ward and their col­leagues voted in favour, so one must pre­sume the tally would have ended 7-4.

The North­ern ward rep­re­sen­ta­tives swore black and blue that liv­ing wage fund­ing must come from cen­tral gov­ern­ment. Too many of Porirua’s ratepay­ers are un­af­fected by the liv­ing wage, so why should the el­derly, for ex­am­ple, have to fork out, they said.

It was a so­cial is­sue for the Gov­ern­ment to sort out, they said.

The Eastern and Western ward coun­cil­lors said this is­sue was one of lead­er­ship and a de­ci­sion that could make a huge dif­fer­ence in the lives of some of their res­i­dents. Show the world we’re a coun­cil that cares, they said.

The $200,000 con­tri­bu­tion is a mid­dle-of-the-road com­pro­mise. A fu­ture Porirua City Coun­cil will in­evitably de­bate this again and a liv­ing wage may pass un­der new, more sym­pa­thetic coun­cil­lors.

There also needs to be some more de­tail about the $200,000. How close to the min­i­mum wage do you have to be and how much would you re­ceive?

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