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Wednesday, 20 September 2017 12:47 am

Emotional stories and pledge for living wage action

Sep 6th, 2017 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

South Sudanese dancers perform during an interlude at the Living Wage election forum.

Emotional low wage stories from workers have become part of the 2017 General Election campaign after a living wage forum in Wellington.

Mareta Sinoti, a long-time cleaner in the public service, told politicians he has worked as a caregiver, a cleaner and a factory hand on a low wage.

“I work hard, and I do a good job. But after all these years, my hourly pay is just a few cents more than the minimum wage,” she told the forum at St Peter’s Anglican Church on Willis Street.

She now works six days a week cleaning at the National Library, supporting a family of four on a single, cleaner’s wage because her husband’s illness prevented him from working for many years.

“I’m proud of my boys, and our family. But I think I deserve better pay after ten years working hard in the public service,” she told the gathering, which was attended by representatives of faith and community groups and trade unions.

Organisers prepare to get underway at the Living Wage election forum.

The meeting ended with politicians pledging to support a living wage, which would make a difference to Ashley Barker, 25, who has two cleaning jobs, one at Parliament.

“I don’t believe in just paying the bills. I wanted to have money to do more but what I realised was that realistically it was killing me,” says Ashley, who moved to Wellington from Napier two years ago.

“It’s hard to get by, 30 hours a week on only a few more than just the minimum wage.”

She said she does not know what she wants for her future. She would like to go back and further her study, but is limited due to her EFTS entitlement.

“This is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, with the lowest pay, and unless you actually do it you wouldn’t understand how hard it is.”

Brian Dawson, Lambton Ward Councillor and Social Development and Living Wage portfolio leader, referenced the Wellington City Council’s adoption of the living wage and encouraged central government to do the same.

“Here’s the thing: the world didn’t end. The economy didn’t fail. And Wellington is still the best city in the world to live.”

Each candidate at the meeting supported the living wage.

When asked during the forum, the Labour Party’s Kelvin Davis, New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, Jan Logie of the Green Party, and Mei Taare-Reedy of the Maori Party all pledged to implement the living wage for employees and contractors in the public service, and to set up an advisory group to help spread it throughout the economy.

Anglican Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth honoured the work of the movement in changing lives.

“If we want to see these pledges become a reality, it’s up to us to lead.

“Let’s make this a reality.”

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