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Fairness at heart
of Wellington City
From July, Wellington City Council will start rolling out
the living wage to contracted cleaning and sanitation
workers - a move it says it’s making in the interests of
fairness. INCLEAN NZ’s Campbell Gardiner reports.
Set at $20.20 an hour, the living wage is income deemed
necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic
necessities of life. The living wage is voluntary, with companies
choosing to pay it. It differs from the minimum wage, which is set
down by law and sits at $15.75 an hour.
Last year on the campaign trail Justin Lester publicly committed to
paying the living wage to contractors if he became Mayor. Since being
voted in last October he has walked the living wage talk, albeit the
Council will be taking a staged approach to its implementation.
“From 1 July we will be raising the minimum wage paid at
Council to the official living wage. This will be expanded to
contractors for cleaning and sanitation as the contracts come up.
We are also looking at bringing some of those services in house
rather than contracting out,” said Lester.
“I think it’s only fair that people who work hard for their
community are paid a decent wage. We have seen from
experience that this can bring real benefits in terms of staff
turnover and performance.”
The Council’s move is the latest in a series of steps it has
taken towards implementing the living wage across all parts
of its business. In 2013, it decided to pay a living wage for its
employees. In 2014, it decided to extend a living wage to staff of
Lyndy McIntyre from advocacy group Living Wage Aotearoa says
there is overwhelming international evidence that paying the living
wage has benefits for employers, including reduced turnover and
recruitment costs, less absenteeism and improved morale and
productivity. For contracted cleaning firms, paying the living wage
also means they have more loyalty from their cleaners and the
ability to retain the best cleaners.
While a bigger pay packet is the main benefit of the living wage
for employees, there are other, related benefits including feelings
of self-worth and respect.
“For cleaners, it could be as basic as the ability to run a car
when there’s no public transport available - often at all hours of
the night. More and more cleaners working in central city areas
live a long way from their work. Many cleaners, on very low wages,
work long hours and have to take second or even third jobs.
Receiving the living wage means they can reduce hours and spend
more time with their families,” said McIntyre.
Living Wage Aotearoa runs a scheme where companies can sign
up to become accredited living wage employers. McIntyre says
these organisations are interested in having a good corporate
image, want to be close to the concerns of the communities in
which they operate and are generally concerned about issues of
poverty and economic inequality.
“We are talking to them about not only paying the living wage to
their own staff, but also to ensure that when they tender for services
such as cleaning that they do that on the basis that the cleaning
company will pay the living wage to those who clean their premises.”
When it comes to the cleaning industry, McIntyre says there is constant
pressure in competitive tendering to push cleaners’ wages down as low
as possible, and so cleaning companies find it very difficult to become
accredited living wage employers and apply a living wage policy in areas
where the client simply wants the cheapest price.
“We encourage the cleaning industry to support the principle
that cleaners should be able to earn enough from their work to
live a reasonable life and not to be deprived from participating in
their communities, schools and churches through having to work
excessive hours because of low wages,” she says.
Lower Hutt-based Fresh Desk is the only fully accredited living
wage cleaning company in New Zealand. It has been paying the
living wage to its cleaners since setting up shop in 2015 and has
experienced a number of positive outcomes around staff loyalty,
consistent quality and low turnover.
It’s a “win-win” say owners Caroline de Castro and Nicole
Oxenbridge. “We’ve found that by doing the right thing by our
team, they do the right thing by our customers.”
Paying the living wage does impact the bottom line, they say, but
deciding to pay it ultimately comes down valuing a fair deal for
their cleaners “We want to encourage large cleaning companies
to come on board with the living wage because it makes business
sense and helps to build a fairer community.”
Wellington City Council is planning to become a fully accredited
living wage employer within the next three years. It expects that
costs associated with its living wage commitments in 2017/18 will
Fresh Desk cleaning team
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