Lower Hutt council backs living wage

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Lower Hutt has taken a step closer to implementing the living wage after representatives at a full council meeting agreed to move forward with the plan.

Mayor Ray Wallace confirmed earlier this week that he would be recommending the pay scheme and said he was pleased his suggestion had received widespread support.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done, including getting our own independent legal advice, having agreement in principle to the living wage is a signal to the Living Wage – Hutt Valley group that we want to work collaboratively with them,” Wallace said following the meeting.

Now the council has agreed in principle to the living wage, chief executive Tony Stallinger is obligated to report back by July 1 on how it could be implemented.

While the majority of councillors supported the proposal to introduce the living wage, not all were in agreement with councillor Chris Milne voicing his objections.

“This potentially puts the council in a position where we are agreeing to do something that may well be illegal,” he said, noting that councils cannot legally provide the living wage unless they can prove under the Local Government Act that it is the most cost effective way to provide the service.

Councillors Leigh Sutton and Margaret Cousins also voted against the living wage with the Taxpayer’s Union and Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce hinting at a legal challenge if the plan goes ahead.

Annie Newman, national convenor of the Living Wage Movement, told HRM that implementing the while compensation costs go up under the pay scheme, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

“Employers find there is better recruitment and retention, that there are higher levels of productivity, that there are more stable workforces and there is higher moral so there is a lot of very strong evidence around those benefits to employers,” she said.

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