Employer rejects paying staff the Living Wage

A council has voted to maintain its current minimum wage rate at $18.25 per hour

Employer rejects paying staff the Living Wage

Palmerston North City Council has voted to maintain its current minimum wage rate at $18.25 per hour for Council staff, in line with the cost of living for Palmerston North.

After a lengthy debate on the issue, a council committee voted by a narrow margin to reject introducing the Living Wage for its lowest paid staff.

Mayor Grant Smith said the Living Wage is based on a national average, including Auckland.

“We know that Palmerston North is a much more affordable place to live and we believe Council, with its management team, are able to make the important decisions to ensure we continue to offer fair remuneration and good support for our employees,” he said.

“Our current rates are based on an external report showing this rate to be in line with the cost of living for Palmerston North and by setting our minimum wage rate at $1.75 higher than the government’s minimum wage rate, we are already moving in the right direction.”

Even though there was a large number of submissions in support of an increase in the minimum wage rate, Council has recently increased its minimum wage from $17.50 to $18.25 (the current minimum wage set by government is $16.50).

This decision will be confirmed once the 10 Year Plan is finalised by Council on 25 June.

The council’s decision is significant, given the fact that along with the District Health Board, the local authority is one of the biggest employers in the area, according to Public Service Association organiser Kevin Bunker.

“This was an opportunity to lead the way and make a statement to other employers when it comes to expecting them to step up to the mark,” said Bunker.

He added that it sets the bar for other employers in that area to respond to and it’s the council’s job to make it easy for other employers to follow suit.

“There’s also the effect of the council demonstrating to other employers in the area it is committed to the living wage,” said Bunker.

“The council should be looking to follow in the footsteps of other cities like Wellington, who have embraced the Living Wage.”

Only a few councils across New Zealand have introduced the Living Wage for their workers.

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