The Living Wage is ten years old this year. It is a campaign to address the poverty of working people in Aotearoa. This poverty impacts on families, communities and our whole economy. A decade ago unions, faith groups and community organisations came together to organise the power of people to win a Living Wage. We were united and passionate, we built local networks and held big assemblies. We took our message to the political leaders who could change the lives of thousands of people. And we did! Public sector contracted cleaners and security guards will now receive the minimum of a Living Wage when the contract for service with government are renewed.
The Living Wage is the hourly rate a worker needs to pay for the necessities of life and participate as active citizens in the community. It reflects basic expenses such as food, transportation, housing and childcare, and is calculated independently each year by the New Zealand Family Centre Social Policy Unit. The rate is announced annually in April and fully reviewed every five years.
But it is not just communities that are celebrating. There are now over 350 accredited Living Wage Employers who have adopted the Living Wage for their employees and contracted workers, delivering services on a regular and ongoing basis, like cleaners and security guards. These employers are from corporates like AMP, Westpac, Kiwibank and Vector. They are from social enterprises like Downlights and charities like Auckland City Mission. They are also unions like E tū, NZEI and PSA.
All of those employers have stepped up to champion the Living Wage in their own sectors and in their own way because they believe it is the right thing to do. They form the Principal Partner Council and act as catalysts in extending the reach and commitment of businesses to the concept of the Living Wage.