A living wage is the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life. A living wage will enable workers to live with dignity and to participate as active citizens in society.
Wages in New Zealand are set in different ways.
- A statutory minimum wage is set by the Government after public consultation. The current minimum wage is $13.50 per hour. We know this is not a living wage that enables workers to survive and participate in society.
- Workers’ employment agreements are set through negotiation between employers and worker/s. Many workers are paid on or just above the minimum wage and this is not a living wage.
- A living wage movement brings communities, unions and faith groups together to influence decision-makers so workers receive enough money to survive on and to participate in society. A living wage calls on employers to negotiate with their employees and unions to implement the living wage through the workplace employment agreement.
Around the world community organisations and unions have joined forces in successful living wage campaigns; they have united around a common goal of reducing poverty. The lives of many low income families have been changed by strong, visible campaigns, focusing on:
- Workers whose earnings come from public funds (either directly or indirectly)
- Wealthy corporates who can pay and
- Employers who voluntarily come on board
In the United Kingdom this approach has changed the debate about wages. A broad cross-section of society now accepts that earnings should be based on what workers need to survive and participate in society and not on the market alone. People who work should not live in poverty.
Living wage campaigns have provided information, education and leadership across communities to build knowledge and understanding about what is happening in society. These alliances work as facilitators and brokers of important relationships between communities and decision-makers, like politicians. By bringing people together living wage movements have influenced politicians and businesses to change their policies and practices and support a living wage.
In New Zealand the living wage movement can:
- Shift the debate about earnings and win support for a living wage
- Unite communities around reducing poverty and inequality
- Influence decision-makers to change their practice and their policy and deliver a living wage