Much is being made of the living wage. The Wellington City Council has been proactive by ensuring the adoption of the living wage to its own employees. It have also tried to ensure its adoption to its contractors. This is not been easy, for example the Wellington Chamber of Commerce has opposed its adoption, citing that many small businesses would be adversely affected. The justifications for this claim have yet to have been validated.
I believe as a public body the Wellington Regional Council should implement a living wage policy. Initially this should be for its employees but should also apply to those who contract services to the council. This would of course include drivers of our buses.
As a society we really need to look at the effects of the minimum wage on the functioning of our community. Further, we need to understand that the minimum wage represents a cross subsidisation. The minimum wage does not allow a person to live a full and meaningful life. In fact, the minimum wage keeps a person and family in poverty. The only way many people on the minimum wage are able to live is by the subsidising effect of wage subsidies and tax rebates. In effect, we the taxpayers are subsidising the wages of business and commercial enterprises.
Jobs have encapsulated the promise to move people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. Instead, jobs are now keeping people in poverty, and, in concert with a dependency on a increrasingly meagre State, ensures that the the esteem and morale of the recipient is kept low and in servitude. This, of course, does nothing for the health and vitality of the community. If we want people and families to be full participants within our community we need to ensure they are paid sufficient to enabled that to happen. Not only that, the economic vitality of the community will increase.
Many would argue that implementing a living wage would increase rates. I do not think that would be necessarily be the case. If it did have an impact it would be minor. However, the question one should be asking is is it right not to have a living wage. As public body, I think the council set the example and the standard. It's a question of doing the right thing and building an inclusive community.
We've all heard the arguments against the living wage. The big argument offered is in fact that will cause a loss of jobs. In places where the living wage has been implemented this does not appear to have occurred. Another argument is that it'll be far too costly for businesses. I cannot argue some businesses will find it hard to implement higher pay. But it must be remembered that by paying workers a living wage it supports the entire economy. Further, living wage will actually save companies money in turnover costs because less people will leave, and it can also lead to higher productivity. The living wage should be seen not as a cost but as an investment in the heart and soul of a business and it's community.