Living Wage For Council Workers

Thames-Coromandel is ideally suited to become a Living Wage District.  It ranks as the 4th lowest District in New Zealand for median household income.  Local incomes have increased at half the rate of many similar rural Districts, and we have levels of social deprivation at the extreme end of the scale.  Housing unaffordability is shockingly almost on par with Auckland.   Inconvenient truths.

Many local families experience hardship or poverty despite having one or two adults in paid work. Of the 270,000 children estimated to be living in poverty in New Zealand, two in five come from households where at least one person is in full-time work or self-employed.

It is simply not tolerable that a significant number of Thames Coromandel workers are working poor.  The Council can play a critical leadership role by paying its own employees and contractors a living wage and actively encouraging other local employers to do so.  Evidence from the UK confirms that politicians at local, regional and national levels can become effective catalysts for Living Wage adoption among small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand defines the living wage as:-

“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.” 

Council should pay the living wage because it is morally right and the evidence shows it makes sound economic sense.  Becoming a living wage Council and encouraging other employers to do the same will improve the economic prosperity and quality of life of local workers and businesses.  A prosperous economic environment depends on consumers having the spending power to support local business.  The low-paid workers who would benefit from receiving the living wage typically spend their entire incomes on retail and basic services. 

Those of you still unconvinced might consider the stunning economic transformation which has occurred in Minnesota after the Governor raised the minimum wage and passed a law guaranteeing equal pay for women.  Unemployment has plummeted, the median wage is now one of the highest in the US, and the deficit has been slashed.  A similar law in Seattle had a minimal effect on prices.

Wellington City Council has lead the way with implementation of the living wage and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has pledged support for it in Auckland City, without raising rates.  The living wage has been successfully implemented by councils around the world.  International experience shows initial estimates of the cost are almost always over blown. There are also significant benefits, including lower staff turnover and absenteeism, and boosted productivity.

Adopting the living wage fits with TCDC’s policies and its economic strategy to “make The Coromandel New Zealand’s most desirable place to live and work.”

It is time to move on from discredited trickle-down economics.  Thames Coromandel Council can and should be a leader in the living wage movement.