The Living Wage story is the story of an exciting movement, campaigning to lift workers out of poverty wages. It’s a story that’s playing out in Auckland, Wellington, Porirua, Hutt City, Christchurch and Bluff. Over the next month we meet at election forums to challenge new candidates to back a Living Wage at their council. These are the dates:
September 4, 7.30pm, Christchurch, Transition Cathedral
September 11, 6.30pm, Bluff Lighthouse Cafe
September 12, 5.30pm, Hutt election forum, Avalon Intermediate
September 18, 6.30pm, Auckland election forum, St Matthew-in-the-City
September 19, 5.30pm, Wellington election forum, St Peters on Willis
September 25, 5.30pm, Porirua, PIPC Church, Cannons Creek
But we want to tell you about the stories that matter as we lift the wages of the lowest paid in Aotearoa.
This is the story of three Wellington workers whose lives have been transformed directly as a result of building community power. Last September these workers told their personal stories at an event hosted by Mayor Justin Lester.
It was the announcement of Wellington City Council’s accreditation as a Living Wage employer, the culmination of a five-year campaign. At that very special event, Malcom Hirini, Eleanor Haggerty-Drummond and Ahmed Dini talked about how the Living Wage had transformed their lives.
Malcolm’s one of Wellington’s parking wardens. He started in 2005 when the wardens were employed by a contractor and it was a minimum wage job.
Malcolm worked his way up to become a supervisor, but the pay was still very low. He and his wife have four daughters and he was working up to 70 hours a week just to get by, spending only half a day with his family.
When the council took the service in-house and lifted the parking wardens to the Living Wage, Malcolm reduced his hours. For him, the win was all about family time. He said: “Now my wife and I have date nights. Now I have a life.”
Eleanor Haggerty-Drummond is a librarian. She was an activist in the campaign for Wellington to become a Living Wage employer. You may have seen her, sharing her story at Living Wage events. Eleanor wanted to be valued for the work she did. Winning the Living Wage meant she did feel valued and it also enabled her and her partner to buy a house. The Living Wage changed Eleanor’s life too.
Ahmed Dini is a refugee-background Wellingtonian from Somalia. He moved to New Zealand in 2013. He and his wife have three little children.
Ahmed has a university degree, but like so many refugee-background New Zealanders, the only work he could get was cleaning on the minimum wage. He enrolled in an English course and worked part-time for a contractor at Wellington City Council. But his income wasn’t enough for his family. So, he dropped the English course and went full time. It still wasn’t enough and he picked up another part-time job. Soon he was doing more than 60 hours a week.
Ahmed said: “I was spending less time with my family. It was hard.”
But this changed when the Wellington City Council cleaners started getting the Living Wage. He said: “This changed a lot for me. I quit my part-time job. Now, I spend more time with my kids. I take them to parks and playgrounds and go to their celebrations in school. I am so happy with that. Next step is to chase my dream of going to Victoria University to update my degree, because now I can afford to do that. Living Wage has changed my life and lives of other workers who work with me.”
The Living Wage does transform lives. But paying the Living Wage is voluntary. So, how have we won so many campaigns and brought the term ‘Living Wage’ from virtually unknown into the mainstream?
Because of all the people who have participated through their unions, faith groups and community organisations. Because of the generous support of individuals who donate money and turn up when we call.
Everything that has been won by the Living Wage Movement has been won because together we have built the community power we need to win. Because we have united diverse organisations to build the power we need to influence decision-makers in our cities, our towns and our country.
Now it is time to rally again as across the country country we turn up to local government forums. Can you be there?