Auckland Council’s ‘living wage’ policy put on hold
"The cost of the "living wage" would be passed on ... these increased prices would lead to demands for the living wage to be increased to compensate"Featured comment
A “living wage” policy is no longer on the agenda of the Auckland Council, with a majority of councillors rejecting the move.
It has been greeted with relief by the business community, which opposes paying up as much as $5 an hour more for no extra work.
The Auckland-based Employers and Manufacturers Association says lifting pay rates will be inflationary and have many unintended consequences.
“A living wage is simply a creative way to raise minimum wages,” says EMA chief executive Kim Campbell. “But its knock on effects would be far reaching, and they are widely misunderstood.”
He says lifting the lowest hourly rate paid to council workers by $5 an hour will effectively mean raising all pay rates by the same amount.
“The tax system would confiscate the benefits for the people it was intended to help as Working For Families payments reduced,” Mr Campbell says.
“Other welfare payments such as accommodation allowances would also rapidly disappear as incomes rose.”
A majority of councillors agreed and in a voted 11-10 to block the “living wage” move from being incorporated into the draft 2014/15 annual budget.
The two leaders of the anti-Brown faction, Cameron Brewer and Dick Quax, proposed the move, which means the council will have to do remuneration policy work first as well as comprehensive cost/benefit/impact analysis.
Councillor Brewer says the “living wage” policy would have a real impact on residential rates in 2014/15 but this will no longer happen.
“We’re doing the work first and that’s a great outcome and reflects much a better process,” he says. “What’s more, Auckland businesses concerned about the knock-on effects can now stand down and see what council reports and policy work delivers next year.
“As part of the government’s recent Better Local Government reforms to strengthen governance provisions, councillors can now set an overall remuneration policy, which includes setting staff numbers.”
The council’s chief executive will now prepare a detailed the costs and wider implications on the council, the business community and the region of the “living wage” policy.