Auckland's Anglican Church-owned Selwyn Village is being targeted by living wage campaigners at a public meeting in Pt Chevalier tomorrow night.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue and her predecessor Dr Judy McGregor will both speak at the meeting in support of raising wages in the village to the "living wage" of $19.25 an hour.
Unions said the vast majority of caregivers, cleaners, laundry and other service staff at the village earned only between the minimum wage of $14.25 an hour and $17.97 an hour.
Selwyn Foundation said its base rate for caregivers ranged from $14.75 to $19.01, with a median of $16.62. Including allowances, it said caregivers' median take-home pay was $17.93 an hour.
Chief executive Garry Smith said he could not comment on wages because the foundation was in the middle of collective employment contract negotiations with the Nurses Organisation and the Service and Food Workers Union.
Don Cotter, a retired businessman who has a 90-year-old father-in-law in full care and a mother-in-law in independent living in Selwyn Village, said he had employed people for 40 years but decided to support the living wage after talking to a woman caring for his father-in-law.
"She told me that day she had to bike to work because her car had been stolen," he said.
"I said, 'I hope you had insurance.' She said, 'I couldn't afford to pay insurance, so I've lost my car.' Her wage was in the low 15s, $15.25 or something.
"I employed 25 staff in my last business, 50 in a business prior, and I know that no adult can live on the minimum wage and be involved in society in a meaningful way."
He said his family paid $60,000 a year to support his father-in-law, and he believed the Selwyn Foundation could afford to pay its caregivers more.
"It is a wealthy organisation," he said.
"They are putting considerable money into buildings. I have no doubt that over time they could find the money to pay their low-paid staff at better wages."
Denise Marshall, whose 97-year-old father has been in the Caswell rest home in the village since 2005, said the foundation had recently closed a hospital at the village to make way for new apartments.
When her father recently had kidney stones and needed a urologist, Selwyn staff told her to wait until the doctor's next twice-weekly visit.
She took him to a urologist herself and returned him with prescribed medication, but the staff complained.
"I got a call at 7 o'clock the next morning saying, 'How dare you do that, that has to go past our doctors before they are allowed to make any change in medication,'" she said.
"I can understand the reasoning behind it, but I'm not stupid either, and if the specialist has prescribed this, why wouldn't he have it?"
She said her father was also unhappy with the food, and his room was not cleaned thoroughly.
"We put a new TV in and had to clean the table under it, it looked as if it hadn't been cleaned for months," she said.
Another friend whose mother had just moved into the village was horrified at a lack of activities.
"They have this room where everyone sits and looks at this enormous TV, or doses in front of it," she said.
"My friend is horrified at the lack of stimulation and lack of care for her mother."
However Mr Smith said the foundation had recently hired new diversional therapists and had taken on 200 new volunteers across the group's nine sites from Whangarei to Cambridge.
He said the group had applied for planning consent for a new 116-bed hospital on the Pt Chevalier site to replace the smaller hospital that was demolished recently.
In the meantime, there was a medical centre on the site so a doctor could be called to the rest homes at any time if necessary.
He said the foundation had put "a huge emphasis on food over the last two years with a major programme to change the menu and the quality of the food".
• The public meeting is at Pt Chevalier Primary School at 7pm tomorrow night.