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Yes Auckland Council can afford the Living Wage

LIVING WAGE PEOPLE’S ELECTION ASSEMBLIES SPEECH

WEST AUCKLAND 19 AUGUST 2016

ST MATTHEW IN THE CITY 1 SEPTEMBER 2016

 

AUCKLAND COUNCIL CAN AFFORD TO PAY A LIVING WAGE

 

Kia ora koutou katoa.

Auckland Council’s Chief Executive is paid $690,000. He was given a $60,000 pay rise in January.

Auckland Council can afford to pay a Living Wage. At the moment it chooses not to do so because it doesn’t value its low-paid workers properly.

The heads of the Council-owned organisations are paid between $340,000 and $680,000. All of them are male and they are overwhelmingly pakeha. By contrast, those paid less than the Living Wage are mainly female and many are Maori or Pasifika.

The number of council employees paid $100,000 or more rose from 11.5 per cent in 2012, to 16.8 per cent in 2015. At the same time, the number of staff paid less than the Living Wage climbed from 15.4 to 16.2 per cent. So there’s an almost exact match between the number of people paid $100,000 or over, and the number paid less than the Living Wage. In a more caring society the solution would be obvious: those paid more than $100,000 would give up a little of their pay so those earning less than the Living Wage would actually earn enough from work to live on.

Between 2015 and 2025, Auckland Council will spend $41.4 billion dollars. Its asset base will rise from $42 billion, to $60 billion.

Our council is a multi-billion dollar organisation. Paying the Living Wage would cost less than 0.02 per cent of the council’s budget – under $8 million.

So, because the council says it can’t afford to pay a Living Wage, or it’s too complicated to pay a Living Wage, we are here to tell them 10 different ways they can do it. We have 10 concrete, specific suggestions for them.

First, in the United Kingdom, Cornwall Council last year introduced a Living Wage for 1800 of its lowest-paid workers by freezing the pay of other employees until 2017. Our council could do that. Very simple.

Secondly, there could be a long-term freeze or cut in the pay of the highest councillors and staff. In 2013, 7 per cent of the council workforce was paid $120,000 or over, costing a total of $127 million, or 20 per cent of the total salary budget. Reducing those salaries by 5.5 per cent, would be enough to pay the Living Wage.

Thirdly, the council will spend $5.3 billion on major infrastructure projects in the next decade. It will spend a further $5.8 billion between 2025 and 2045. Slightly reducing, or deferring, some major infrastructure projects would easily result in enough money to fund the Living Wage.

Fourthly, the Council could defer or reduce some of the $18.7 billion of capital spending it plans between 2015 and 2025.

Fifthly, some of the $309 million a year expected to be saved in corporate costs by 2025 could be used.

Sixthly, technology savings projected to rise to $300 million a year by 2025 could be put towards the Living Wage.

Seventhly, some small local projects could be delayed or cancelled. One example is $17 million for upgrading spaces in the CBD.

Eighthly, debt could be reduced more slowly.

Ninthly, the cost of the Living Wage could be funded through borrowing. The council’s debt will be $11.6 billion by 2025, so borrowing a few million to pay for the Living Wage would result in only a fractional increase in the council’s overall debt.

Tenthly, the council will sell an average of $66 million of surplus property assets each year in the next decade. That money could be used to finance the Living Wage.

If the council won’t pay a Living Wage, it should stop saying its aim is to make our city the world’s most liveable city. What that is, is hypocrisy. A city can’t be liveable if workers can’t afford to live here.



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