The Tauranga City Council is moving to pay its staff the living wage.

The move, supported by the community and culture committee today, would see the council pay "direct" employees at least the living wage - currently $20.55 an hour - instead of the legally mandated $16.50.

The decision must be ratified by the full council. If supported, it could be introduced this year within existing budgets.

Local living wage advocates, however, have criticised councillors for not extending the offer to council contractors or people working for Tauranga's three council-controlled organisations: Bay Venues, Tourism Bay of Plenty and Tauranga Art Gallery.

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The living wage is calculated independently of the government each year to reflect the amount a Kiwi worker needed to cover basic expenses (food, housing, transportation, childcare).

It will cost an estimated $28,000 to bring the wages of the lowest paid "direct" council workers - about 4.5 per cent of its staff - up to a living wage.

Most of the 31 affected workers were casual employees. Other staff would not get a corresponding payrise.

It would cost much more - an estimated $2.6 million - to apply the standard for workers of Bay Venues, which operated 24 city-owned recreational venues including Baywave and Baypark,

Council strategic policy analyst Rebecca Gallagher said that was mainly due to Bay Venues' "narrow banding structure" for wages.

At some workplaces, the living wage would bump junior employees to almost the same hourly rate as supervisors, she said.

John Garwood, of Income Equality Aotearoa New Zealand, said while he was pleased about the decision for direct employees, he was "extremely disappointed" it would not be extended or investigated for indirect employees.

"What we're on about is getting everyone in the community on the living wage. This is the leadership we are looking for from the council," Garwood said.

Councillor Larry Baldock supported that view but said he wanted more details from Bay Venues before "imposing that kind of cost on them".

Councillor Catherine Stewart was the sole nay vote - "Reluctantly", she said.

She said she struggled to support taking more from ratepayers who might be on a low wage themselves.

"Businesses out here in the real world have to make ends meet."

Mayor Greg Brownless said the Government should not be let off the hook.

"If the Government were to set the minimum wage at a living wage the whole problem would be solved."


What are other councils doing?

- Wellington City Council: accredited living wage employer, policy covers all staff
- Auckland Council: progressively raising wages to be reach living wage by October 2019
- Christchurch City Council: adopted living wage for direct employees, extending to contractors and council-controlled organisations within three years.