Wellington Scoop

City council votes to pay living wage to employees of its security contractor

News from WCC
The Wellington City Council last night voted 9-6 to extend an $18.55-per-hour living wage to contractors working under a proposed new contract to supply security services to the Council.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says: “The decision applies to a security contract with strong public roles including noise control, cash handling, guarding and mobile patrols. We expect improvements to the quality and effectiveness of these services and greater pride in delivery.”

Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, who seconded the motion that led to the decision, says he strongly believes a living wage rate encourages staff to stay on in tough and potentially dangerous jobs like those in the security industry. “It reduces turnover and increases stability – this is good not only for workers but for the industry, the Council and the community.

Cr Ahipene-Mercer adds: “It’s the right thing to do – it is cruel and unusual punishment to pay minimal wages to people doing important and hazardous work – especially in a city with the highest average wages in the country.”

In a first for the City Council, Councillor Paul Eagle joined the debate and cast his vote in favour of the living wage, remotely from Perth where he is attending a housing conference.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester also successfully moved that the Council ensure there would be no additional costs to ratepayers. Councillors voted 8-7 to remove $250,000 from the Council’s personnel and travel budget to make the outcome fiscally-neutral. He said: “We know through our experience with our parking wardens, who are already on the living wage, that service levels improve along with staff morale and performance.”

Mayor Wade-Brown says cities worldwide that have led with applying a living wage have found that the workers who benefit tend to spend any increases locally. “The local community as a whole benefits, economically and socially.”

She told the meeting that she acknowledged advice from Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery and officers against the increased wage on legal grounds – principally that it could contravene the Local Government Act’s edicts relating to cost-effective spending.

“The Chief Executive is commended for his clear, frank and cautious advice. However our job as Councillors is to consider our commitment to a staged implementation of a living wage.

“The Council provides many services and runs many events that contribute to the vitality and the economic wellbeing of the Capital – many of these could be challenged under a narrow interpretation of what could be considered cost-effective – however the vast majority of the community is happy with this spending.

“The Christmas trees, Diwali and WOW, for example, are wonderful for retailers and other local businesses who have never queried whether they are absolutely the most cost-effective mechanism for economic success.”

Mayor Wade-Brown says wage levels for future Council contracts will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed security contract will cover Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council. The preferred supplier will not have to apply a living wage rate for work done for the Porirua and Kapiti councils.

The Wellington City Council last year voted to pay an $18.40-per-hour living wage to a range of lower-paid ‘in-house’ staff including the likes of swimming pool life guards and parking wardens.

Media release from Cr Paul Eagle
Wellington City Councillors last night made a landmark decision in directing their Chief Executive to ensure the preferred supplier for the council’s security services tender implements the living wage for its employees.

Councillor Paul Eagle, Chair of the council committee responsible for social development, says the decision marks the next step in the council’s pioneering journey to ensure those delivering core council services are paid a decent wage.

“The fundamental issue here is about human decency and fairness so people who deliver council services in Wellington can live in dignity.”

The decision means the Wellington City Council is the first local authority in the country to request a contractor pay the living wage which it has set at $18.40 (and adjusted by CPI).

“For those who think the issue is an ideological “feel good” initiative, I say change your ideology and help us to close the widening pay gap that’s harming our society – particularly those most in need.”

Councillor Eagle said it was time to divert attention away from the proposed $100 million Panda Palace.

“I’d rather we spent some of that money on hard working street cleaners, rubbish collectors and other staff on the lowest wages,” he said.

A decision is due on the security services contract by 31 October to enable negotiations to progress.

“Security services are a core council service and I’m reminded that a 27 year old security guard in Auckland died on his first night on the job. Is putting your life on the line worth $14 an hour?”

Cr Eagle says the Living Wage was well canvassed during the 10 year planning process last year, with overwhelming endorsement from Wellingtonians.

“It’s said that you can judge a person’s character by how they treat those who can do nothing for them. That’s how we’ll be judged when we decide whether to provide a living wage for the lowest paid people in our community. It’s time we moved on from being the “Coolest little capital in the world” to the “Fairest little capital in the world.”


  1. Grant Robertson, 28. October 2015, 21:57

    Great news. Well done WCC. #fairestlittlecapital [via Twitter]

  2. Sarah Free, 28. October 2015, 21:58

    So proud of our Mayor Celia Wade-Brown tonight as she carefully argued the case for the Living Wage to be paid to security contractors. [via Twitter]

  3. CC, 28. October 2015, 22:13

    For heavens sake Cr. Free, show some substance rather than sycophancy. The Mayor’s case made no difference to the ethical principles of probably eight out of the nine councillors who eschewed the temptation of civic usury of essential service providing workers. Now, let’s see if Cr. Young and her mates will proclaim their low-paid labour exploitative views come the next election.

  4. dave, 28. October 2015, 22:33

    well done. now do something about the increasing number of $100,000 workers.

  5. Cr Sarah Free, 29. October 2015, 8:08

    It’s not sycophancy to genuinely admire good leadership.
    My own support for the living wage is clear in several speeches I have made on the issue, starting right from when I was elected.

    In this case, given the officer advice, it was particularly important to outline clear, logical reasons why we would choose to pay these contractors the Living Wage. Celia set the tone for that particularly well.

  6. Wellingtonista, 29. October 2015, 14:31

    It would be good to know if Kapai and the staff at Little Peckish will be getting a living wage soon too [via Twitter]

  7. Anabel, 29. October 2015, 15:46

    Why don’t the all WCC councillors, troughers & the CEO make their wages “fair” before they pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for being so “fair”?

    Pulling themselves up for contravening the Local Government Act’s edicts relating to cost-effective spending is funnier than hell as the WCC are not known as “cost effective spenders” in practice. Adjusting for Inflation is seen as “progressive.” Funny how we don’t see any of the councillors, officers or CEO making their wages “fair” .

  8. Ryan Brown, 29. October 2015, 17:22

    Do Justin Lester and Mark Peck pay the Living Wage for the staff they employ in their businesses? Can we clarify this issue.

  9. Justin Lester, 29. October 2015, 17:49

    In place for all staff with dependents and staff with 2 years service. By the end of year all trained staff included. I’m one of two owners so will personally subsidise this and know it will benefit the business long-term. [via Twitter]