Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Bishop challenges high-income earners

Bishop Justin Duckworth helps out at the Habitat for Humanity house in Manukau yesterday. Photo / Chris Gorman
Bishop Justin Duckworth helps out at the Habitat for Humanity house in Manukau yesterday. Photo / Chris Gorman

Wellington's Anglican bishop says he may cut his own salary to help fund a "living wage" for cleaners, caregivers and other low-paid workers in Anglican churches and social agencies.

Bishop Justin Duckworth, a dreadlocked, Jandal-wearing priest who was an upset choice as bishop last year, is also challenging other high-income earners to take less to fund higher wages for the 39 per cent of Kiwi workers who now earn less than the living wage, defined by union and church groups as $18.40 an hour.

His current salary is about $63,000, or $30 an hour, plus a house.

"My personal response is in the future I have to look at what I am earning and say, what is appropriate for me to earn given that many people in our society don't even have enough to participate meaningfully in our society," he said.

"I would ask that everyone else should be engaged in the moral conversation of when is too much too much."

The bishop, who has lived his entire married life sharing his family home with people in need such as lost teenagers and ex-prisoners, said he and his wife, Jenny, were also considering how to make best use of the bishop's official home across the road from Parliament when they move there later this year from the community for recovering addicts and others where they have lived for the past 10 years.

"We have always lived with people. We will do that again," he said.

He told 600 people at a Salvation Army social justice conference in Manukau yesterday that they could not seek well-paid careers and work for social justice at the same time.

"One of the things we don't tell the next generation is that you can't have it all. You have to choose which story you are going to fit," he said.

"If you want to choose the story of upward mobility, 2.3 kids, a white picket fence, a mortgage, a university education, a good career and superannuation, you can't have that and come to this conference and expect to work for justice. You can't do everything.

"We have to tell our young people clearly that Jesus is not an app that we load onto our smartphones. He is the core operating system. If he is the core operating system, that influences everything in our lives."

"If we are asking people to be involved in community development, justice, stopping human trafficking, living wage - the question is what do we tell them not to do, because otherwise they will burn out.

"We have to tell them how to live simply and to be happy with what you've got, realising that everyone else in society is screaming, 'Have more, have more, have more!"'

His comments came as an Auckland Council committee decided yesterday to keep investigating ways to pay the living wage to the 1623 council staff who now earn below $18.40 an hour. Officials said this would cost $3.75 million a year.

They also backed an amendment by councillor Cameron Brewer to find the cost within the existing $693 million wage bill, which includes 1500 people earning over $100,000 a year.

"As a proportion [of 10,616 total staff], that's above what the State Services Commission pays. It's also above what the likes of Air NZ pay," Mr Brewer said.

"We are paying our executives and middle managers more and more and I believe that there is a lot of fat in that budget to spread the load around."

Councillors' own pay is due to jump from $90,050 ($43 an hour) to $98,672 ($47 an hour) after next month's council election.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 30 Jul 2014 16:28:18 Processing Time: 565ms