It was the best of times for Council workers at the Wellington City Council today, as we heard the full Council approve a draft annual plan that provided for a living wage for Council employees. Far more importantly in my view they also decided to bring the parking wardens, working for contractor Tenix, back into Council employ so that they would also receive a living wage from July 1.
Parking wardens were to be given additional responsibilities as ambassadors for the city and advisers to citizens. Certainly after listening to Esa Taniela’s eloquence and humour when he spoke at the Council committee meeting last week, they will have no problem doing that job.
The revolutionary aspect is that this is the first time that I am aware that a public body has rolled back that favourite neo-liberal theory, that contract competition for work drives efficiency. Rather than efficiency it drives anxiety, the insidious and pernicious effect of precarious work when combined with low wages.
It sounded like the worst of times for workers however in Auckland, as some of the Council there vented their spleen, all smoke and no gun, and the local paper called for the Mayor to go apparently on the basis that he could not be a one-man band any more! Well having failed to remove Mayor Brown they got their way in that his call for Auckland Council workers to be paid a living wage was overturned by the Scrooges of the right.
Dickensian times indeed. But Auckland Council’s decision will be a pyrrhic victory for the right wing; it will just give more power to the Living Wage campaign which is gaining real momentum because it is the right thing.