The government guarantees a living wage for public service contractors

Civil Service Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Some of the lowest-paid government workers, including cleaners, caterers and security guards, will soon be earning at least the living wage of $22.75 an hour.

Civil Service Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning that these key civil service departments and agencies had been tasked with ensuring that pay was guaranteed in cleaning, catering and security guard contracts signed or renewed after December 1.

The move was part of Labor’s election manifesto and continues to push to focus on and raise low pay in the public sector.

“Cleaners, caterers and security guards on third-party public service contracts do valuable work, but aren’t always paid at levels that allow them a decent standard of living,” Hipkins said.

Many departments have already paid the salary, but today’s announcement would guarantee it, he said.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said government agencies had “incredible buying power” and therefore used these levers to ensure people received a salary they could live on.

This follows a campaign to pay the living wage to staff working in MIQ facilities. Previously, many employees working in these facilities earned at least minimum wage.

After a concerted campaign by unions and staff who spoke out, all MIQ 32 establishments are now paying their staff living wages or more.

E tū Deputy National Secretary Annie Newman said the one-time pay increase was great, but needed to be tied to wage growth to be more sustainable.

The next big step for these low-paid workers was for the government to implement good legislation on fair pay agreements, she said.

“Wages are only part of the picture. Workers deserve better minimums in all sorts of areas, including training, meaningful input into workplace decision-making, and health and safety. .

“We look forward to the government bringing its Fair Remuneration Agreement Bill to first reading so E tū members can let them know how transformative this new system will be.”

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff welcomed the announcement and called on other employers to also seize the opportunity and transition their low-paid workers to living wages.

“This step is the least we can do to recognize the important role these workers have played. It’s time for other employers to step up and offer a living wage to their low-paid employees as well.”

Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ chair Gina Lockyer said it was a “victory” for those involved in the nearly 10-year campaign.

A cleaner for more than 20 years, Mele Peaua, who is hired to clean at MBIE, said switching to a living wage would make a “huge difference” for workers like her and reduce the need to work longer hours to earn enough to get by.

“The living wage helps us cover the cost of living, and we only have to work eight hours and then come home,” said the mother of seven.

Michael A. Bynum