Ending the year on a Living Wage high!

Union members at the National Library showing solidarity with our cleaners and security guards

E tū members were loud and proud as they participated in Living Wage Week in November.

On Monday, Victoria University cleaner Rebecca Kuach attended the Auckland launch of “My Life To Live,” the photo exhibition of refugee background workers.

“Telling my story through the exhibition was very empowering for me. It was nice to be there for the Auckland launch and share my story with Living Wage supporters,” Rebecca says.

On Tuesday, workers at the National Library in Wellington held a solidarity morning tea, to celebrate the hard work of workers employed by contractors, such as cleaners and security guards, and support their call for a Living Wage for all workers in the core public service.

Rosie Ngakopu, an E tū security guard at the National Library, really appreciated the support.

“Solidarity is strong in the hearts and minds of working New Zealanders,” Rosie says.

Delegations of E tū members also met with MPs and ministers over the week to remind them of the promises they made at the last election, particularly that they would “support and promote changing government procurement policies to ensure that all contracted workers, who are delivering a regular and ongoing service to the core public service, move to the Living Wage within the next term of government,” which was a commitment made by all three Government parties in the 2017 election campaign.

Members put the case for the Living Wage to Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson; Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni; Minister of Economic Development, Phil Twyford; and Minister of State Services and Education, Chris Hipkins.

Minister of Economic Development Phil Twyford (centre) hears about Living Wage and social procurement

As well as our members getting active, there were some big new accredited Living Wage Employers announced, including ANZ Bank and Queenstown Airport Corporation.

Fiona Lawson, who works at the airport for an airline, hopes this will encourage more Queenstown businesses to get on board.
“It’s exciting to have the airport take such a significant step for their workers, and hopefully it creates some momentum for the Living Wage in Queenstown,” Fiona says.

“It’s time for the Queenstown Lake District Council to commit to paying all their staff the Living Wage, like other councils across New Zealand are doing. We’re also calling on other businesses like hotels and restaurants to do the same, as many frontline staff are paid below the Living Wage.

“It’s been empowering to see what local Living Wage networks have been able to achieve for low paid workers. I loved visiting the Bluff Living Wage team this year and found their work inspiring. People deserve better wages, and this is how we get them.”

E tū members meet with Minister of Finance Grant Robertson (centre)

The local elections in October also saw some great victories for local Living Wage networks. In particular, Hutt City now has a Living Wage activist and E tū member, Campbell Barry, as mayor.

“I’ve made an absolute commitment that Hutt City Council will be an accredited Living Wage Employer this term, which means that all workers, including contractors, get at least the Living Wage, and I want to get that done sooner rather than later,” Campell says.
“We’ve already had some Living Wage wins this term, with the street sweeping contract requiring payment of the Living Wage. We’re gonna keep this going.”

2020 is bound to be another big year for our community movement for the Living Wage. If 2019 is anything to go by, E tū members will once again lead the charge!

A full house for the My Life To Live photo exhibition launch in Auckland