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Mayoral candidates get and give Living Wage messages

Sep 16th, 2016 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

The crowd at the Living Wage Meet the Candidates meeting at Wesley Church in Taranaki St.

The crowd at the Living Wage Meet the Candidates meeting at Wesley Church in Taranaki St.

Ope Siale came to New Zealand from Samoa for a better life for his kid – but he painted a bleak picture of going hungry when he addressed Wellington mayoral candidates.

“Luckily I work by myself. No-one gets to see me eating nothing,” he said.

Ope was speaking at a meeting of nearly 300 people at Wesley Church in Taranaki St to question mayoral candidates on their commitment to the Living Wage.

He works as a cleaner in various council facilities seven days a week, including public holidays.

Ope says his pay rate is too low, lower than what other cleaning companies offer.

The award rate is not enough to support his family, to pay bills and to look after his kids.

Most of the time when he goes to work he has no lunch.

Candidates were asked to build on the steps taken by council committing to the Living Wage and ultimately become a fully accredited Living Wage employer by the end of the next council term.

Council policy gives employees the Living Wage, but not contractors.

During the meeting, each candidate had two minutes to speak on their commitment to the Living Wage.

Three candidates gave full support while two candidates said they could not support the Living Wage.

Nicola Young, current independent councillor for Lambton ward, stressed the importance of keeping Wellington an affordable city and protecting core services by cutting rates.

“I believe the Living Wage is a one-size-fits-all tool, doing a job that really government should be doing,” she said.

She could not agree to support the living wage.

Helene Ritchie, an independent councillor for Northern ward, said she had a strong history of supporting the Living Wage.

“Of course I support all of the commitments you’ve asked me to make.

“I am the only councillor to consistently oppose the runway extension, that’s $350-$500 million that could go towards the Living Wage.”

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester, said: “I am incredibly proud to be the first and only council in the entire country to implement the Living Wage for its employees.”

He supported a commitment to the Living Wage and said it was important to not put the Living Wage at risk by electing candidates who did not support it.

“As mayor I want Wellington to be the coolest little capital, but also the fairest little capital as well,” he said.

Andy Foster, councillor for Onslow-Western Ward, said the Living Wage was predicated on a family of four.

The reality was that 70% receiving the Living Wage were not in this situation and therefore he would not commit to it.

“However, if the council wants to do that, I will respect the will of council,” he said.

Nick Leggett, current mayor of Porirua, said that Porirua City Council had increased wages for its lowest paid workers.

“It’s not an intellectual exercise, it’s a principal. It’s not rocket science.

“I’m proud to work towards the Living Wage if I am elected in Wellington,” he said.

Keith Johnston, first-time candidate, said older people were often struggling on low incomes.

“Is it fair we should discriminate against super annuitants?

“I would not vote for the Living Wage.”

Jo Coughlan was unable to attend because she had a family bereavement.

The audience was enthusiastic and well-behaved and only booed at one point.

The Wesley Church Tongan and the DCM Ukes Matawaka provided entertainment for the meeting.

The Living Wage campaign aims to pay workers a rate which covers the actual expenses incurred by a typical family, the campaign’s website said.

The rate is currently $19.80 per hour before tax, while the minimum wage is $15.25.

The campaign focuses initially on signing up larger employers such as councils or hospitals.

The Living Wage Campaign connects community groups, faith based groups, advocates and unions.

The campaign often uses workers’ personal stories to inspire change making.

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