The union representing Hamilton City Council staff has slammed the council for giving its chief executive a 15 per cent pay rise while its members are still waiting on any pay rise this year.

Public Service Association national secretary Glenn Barclay said its 130 members thought Richard Briggs' $60,000 pay hike was unfair as they would probably be getting an average 2 per cent pay increase when it eventually came through.

Briggs' annual salary is $440,000, up $110,000 from when he started in 2014.

However, according to the PSA, an increase for staff had been delayed because some performance reviews still had not been completed by the April/May deadline and the PSA had spoken to the CEO about making it a priority.

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"This is a very large pay rise for Mr Briggs, coming on top of a substantial increase last year," Mr Barclay said.

"Hamilton City Council should consider how this looks, particularly to its staff. Sixty thousand dollars, the amount of Mr Briggs' pay rise, is more than many PSA members at the council earn in a year.

"In addition to this, if the council considers Mr Briggs is now paid at the 'correct level' for his job, we would remind them that many of our members are paid well below the market rate for the jobs they do. We would also remind the council that they voted to reject paying the living wage to council staff and contractors in March of this year."

The living wage is a high enough wage to maintain a normal standard of living and has been calculated to be $20.20 per hour for 2017.

Hamilton mayor Andrew King said there was no doubt it was a big pay rise when compared to "ordinary" salaries across the city, but argued the role as chief executive for a major metropolitan city was "no ordinary job".

"I believe Richard is doing an outstanding job for the city and his salary is a reflection of the size, complexity and responsibility of his role and the work he is doing."

The chief executive's review and remuneration process was separate from that of the council's 1000 staff and had a different and very specific review date, he said.

The council was running behind its overambitious schedule with reviewing remuneration, Mr King said, but had added $750,000 to its budget to move staff into the correct salary range.

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"This is an ongoing focus for this council and is a continuation of a process that started last year to specifically address any pay gaps."

However, Hamilton Labour MP Sue Moroney was also gobsmacked over the level of Mr Briggs' pay rise.

"It's hypocrisy because the councillors who voted against a living wage for the lowest paid of the staff that they employ said they couldn't afford to do it and it would cause a rates increase. That's $60,000 every year for the CEO's role that could have actually gone quite a long way to funding the living wage for those at the bottom without increasing rates. Because they've obviously got that money available for wage increases."

Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland councils have voted in favour of the living wage.