Our week of Living Wage wins

Mayor Campbell Barry cuts the cake as Hutt City Council becomes a Living Wage Employer

E tū members once again led the charge this Living Wage Week in November. We celebrated some awesome victories and kept the pressure on with our campaigns for even more E tū members to win the Living Wage (currently $22.75).

One massive win was the Government announcement that all cleaners, security guards, and caterers who are employed by contractors in the public service will now get at least the Living Wage, as the service contracts are renewed. They will have guaranteed annual increases in line with the labour cost index, which is one way of measuring average wages, and adjustments will be made to keep pace with changes in the independently calculated Living Wage rate.

For E tū delegate and experienced Living Wage campaigner Mele Peaua, the biggest advantage of the Living Wage is simple – more time with her family.

“Because the Living Wage helps so much with the cost of living, it means you only need to work eight hours and then go home,” Mele says.

Another big victory was the Hutt City Council (HCC)becoming Aotearoa’s third accredited Living Wage council. E tū members have been organising for this win since the Living Wage Movement started. Our co-president Muriel Tunoho, who has led this charge since the beginning, said it was a proud day for the local movement.

Spotless catering workers present their petition for Living Wage increases

“It has been a long journey! We overcame every obstacle because of our network’s determination and the courage of HCC cleaners and E tū members to keep telling their stories,” Muriel says.

“This is what community power can achieve to build a more just society together.”

Spotless catering workers who make the food for the Government’s school lunch programme had started on the Living Wage, but hadn’t had their pay increased to reflect the new rate this year. On Living Wage Week, our members went straight to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, to share their stories.

As Minister Wood said at the meeting: “The healthy school lunches initiative was set up for the wellbeing of our communities, and that should also include those people who are performing the mahi.”

E tū members joined our allies in the Living Wage Movement to host an online forum about Fair Pay Agreements, which will be a vital tool for winning the Living Wage across whole industries. E tū leader Iunisi Faingaanuku shared a message of solidarity with her cleaning colleagues.

“To all my co-workers – school cleaners, commercial cleaners, and hospital cleaners who look after the wellbeing and health and safety of New Zealand – my heart goes out to you all,” Iunisi said.

“We deserve more than the minimum wage and a ‘thank you’. We don’t want our children and grandchildren to go through the struggle we are going through now.”