Living wage debate close to home for MPs

By Kate Shuttleworth

MPs from across Parliament will attend the launch in Wellington tomorrow. Photo / Mark Mitchell
MPs from across Parliament will attend the launch in Wellington tomorrow. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A campaign calling for a "living wage" should apply to staff hired in Parliament says Labour MP Darien Fenton who is helping Parliamentary cleaners negotiate higher wages.

A campaign by the Service and Food Workers Union will be launched tomorrow calling for all New Zealanders to be paid a "living wage".

Parliamentary cleaners are calling for their wages to be raised to $15 an hour - currently the 28 cleaners are paid just above minimum wage at $13.85 an hour and supervisors are paid $14.60 an hour.

Service and Food Workers Union, Labour and New Zealand First MPs have been negotiating with Parliamentary Services general manager Geoff Thorn about a wage rise for cleaners.

A spokeswoman for SFWU said the cleaners were employed by Spotless Services under a collective agreement and any increase in their pay rates would have to be topped up by Parliamentary Services under that agreement.

Labour and New Zealand First MPs met with the cleaners in Parliament to discuss advocating for them to have their wages raised to at least $15 an hour.

Labour's industrial relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, said MPs wrote to Mr Thorn today asking him to fund an increase in pay from the minimum wage - it would cost Parliamentary Services $50,000 to top-up the wages of all of the 28 cleaners.

"We are concerned the people who do such a good job looking after MPs and Ministers are paid so poorly - it's made worse by the fact most of them only work 30 hours a week."

She said Parliamentary Services had declined to meet with SFWU but the matter would be on the agenda of the next Parliamentary Services Commission meeting.

The SFWU "living wage" campaign is supported by more than 80 organisations.

SFWU National Secretary John Ryall said a living wage is defined at a wage which allows workers and their families to not only survive but to participate in society.

He said more research was being done on what a minimum rate of pay should be by it was believed a living wage would be over $18 an hour.

"We know the living wage well exceeds the minimum wage of $13.50. Many workers are living on or just above the minimum wage, working 60-70 hours a week to make ends meet," said Mr Ryall.

MPs from across Parliament will attend the launch in Wellington tomorrow.


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