Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Super City elections 2013: Living wage gets a big tick

Mayor joins other candidates in saying council workers should get at least $18.40.

John Minto yesterday said he would cut executive salaries to pay for workers' pay rises. Photo / Natalie Slade
John Minto yesterday said he would cut executive salaries to pay for workers' pay rises. Photo / Natalie Slade

Auckland mayor Len Brown has finally endorsed a "living wage" for council workers, almost two weeks after his chief right-wing rival John Palino unexpectedly appeared to support the idea.

After saying on September 3 that he was waiting for a report before deciding on the issue, Mr Brown said yesterday that he would commit this Thursday to paying the living wage of $18.40 an hour to council staff.

A spokesman said: "He is supportive, and if re-elected he intends to propose that council do further work on it, and following that he will support it being implemented to council employees.

"We haven't said contractors, but he will be saying we need the analysis done firstly, and providing that supports the measure he will propose that the living wage be paid to council employees."

His shift on the issue comes 10 days after voting papers were posted to voters and almost two weeks after Mr Palino told a living wage meeting in Henderson that he supported the proposal, according to living wage campaigners.

Forum organisers soaked those who exceeded their allotted speech time. Photo / Natalie Slade
Forum organisers soaked those who exceeded their allotted speech time. Photo / Natalie Slade


Campaign co-ordinator Annie Newman said Mr Palino told her before the September 18 meeting that he didn't want to sit with the other candidates because he didn't support the living wage.

"Then about 10 minutes later he came up and whispered to me, 'I'd like to go up there now, I'm going to support it'."

A pamphlet distributed at a rowdy meeting at Auckland University yesterday, where organisers fired a water pistol at candidate Penny Bright for speaking too long, listed Mr Palino as a living wage supporter with Ms Bright and other left-wingers such as John Minto. Mr Brown was not on the list. But Mr Palino said after the meeting that the pamphlet was incorrect.

"I support the living wage in principle, I want to do what I can to drive up the minimum wage.

"I do not support implementing the living wage in council," he said.

"At this point in time when we are struggling and rates are rising, I can't look at increasing wages in council. I don't think that raising wages for people in council is actually helping the economy of Auckland."

Mr Minto told the university meeting that he supported a living wage for all council workers and contractors, but not by raising rates.

"We would cut the salaries of senior management at the council because those salaries have got out of control," he said.

The council's annual report, published yesterday, shows that 1500 council staff earned more than $100,000 in the year to June 30, including 113 who earned above $200,000.

Watercare's annual report shows chief executive Mark Ford's pay rose by $70,000 from $710,000-$720,000 last year to $780,000-$790,000 in the latest year.

Three other council employees also earned above $500,000, while 1623 earned below $18.40 an hour. The cost of lifting all staff to at least $18.40 an hour has been put at $3.75 million, or 0.5 per cent of the council's $693 million total wage bill.

- NZ Herald

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