It's time for a Living Wage

at Christchurch City Council

Do City Councillors have the courage to do the right thing?

Keep Our Asserts Canterbury (KOA) is pleased the Council has finally released one of the reports prepared by its staff on the Living Wage before a debate and vote at this Thursday’s council meeting.

It is deeply disappointing the Council refused to release this report (and other reports still hidden from the public) to enable Christchurch citizens to discuss the proposal. As things stand we have had three years of delays, secret meetings, withheld information and obfuscation from senior Council staff and some elected representatives.

It seems clear that business lobby groups, Treasury, senior Council staff and the Mayor are strongly opposed to the introduction of the Living Wage for those employed to do Council work.

Democracy has always been an irritant to supporters of neo-liberalism who would prefer to stifle debate rather than face community expectations.

The picture which faces the Council this week is a simple one; while it seems clear the majority of Councillors and the wider public support introduction of the Living Wage, the tone of the senior staff report is deeply antagonistic to the Living Wage. It conjures up a long list of “risks” and potential “difficulties” while ignoring the reality of the direct experiences from overseas where councils have introduced the Living Wage without the sky falling in. The writers are so hostile to the concept that they didn’t even bother to consider the implications of including VBase staff or employees of Council contractors in the proposal.

The report canvasses the opinions of well-paid business leaders and Treasury officials but community opinion and the views of those who would benefit from the proposal are ignored. KOA for example was
never consulted despite raising this as an issue of serious concern in the 2016 mayoralty campaign when our candidate John Minto spoke on the issue to widespread acclaim from audiences across the city. During that campaign we argued that the policy could be paid for by managing down senior staff salaries at the Council, which have sky rocketed in recent decades.

It is especially disappointing to see well-paid senior staff decrying the cost of implementation of the Living Wage for directly employed staff (a relatively modest $775,000) and highlighting the fact that no budget provision has been made for this. This is a cynical comment when several years have passed since the issue was raised with the Council.

It also contrasts sharply with the very recent secret Council meeting to approve an unbudgeted $10 million grant towards the restoration of Christchurch Cathedral or the earlier decision to give $300,000 of ratepayer money to wealthy developer Antony Gough to make his $150 million development energy efficient.

In short, if there is a will on the part of Councillors to implement the Living Wage, then there is a way to include it in the budget immediately.

We urge Councillors to implement the Living Wage in full this week for directly employed staff and insist on an urgent report from staff, including a financial proposal, to implement it also for VBase staff and employees of Council contractors. This would represent a clean break by the Council from the strictures of neo-liberalism which has led to a much more deeply divided city over the past 30 years.

In taking this action we suggest Councillors look no further than the example of the National government which recently agreed to a billion-dollar settlement for low-paid care workers. This was not phased in as a half-baked policy but was simply announced and implemented in full. The Christchurch City Council should do the same with the Living Wage.

The Council’s role is not to be diverted by scaremongering by vested interests who are happy with growing inequality and an ever-smaller share of GDP going to workers.

The Christchurch City Council’s job is to ensure that everyone employed, directly or indirectly, to do council work is paid at a rate that enables them to participate as citizens with the dignity and respect that comes from being paid reasonable wages.


Yes some groups will complain about this policy but low-paid workers will celebrate and the Christchurch City Council will have done the right thing towards a fairer, less unequal city.

Christchurch City Council Restores City Care To Strategic Assets List

Keep Our Assets Claims Victory In Save City Care Campaign


The Christchurch City Council voted, on June 20th, to restore City Care to its strategic assets list.

This is the culmination of a long back down by the Council which had announced, in 2015, that it planned to sell City Care as the first step in an assets sale process supposedly necessitated by the need to raise capital to clear debts incurred by quake rebuild costs and obligations.

Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) tackled the Council head on about this. We said that the debt claim was bunk and that the figures for the debt were manufactured.

We said that the decision to sell assets was a perfect illustration of Government-led disaster capitalism or shock doctrine, motivated solely by ideology i.e to take advantage of the shock of disaster to ram home a privatisation policy.

We opposed the whole assets sale policy.
 
And we very actively opposed the specific proposal to sell City Care, campaigning tirelessly on the streets and in the Council Chamber throughout 2015 and 16.

Our campaign included running John MInto as our Mayoral candidate in 2016.

The Council started to see sense in 2016, when it announced that it would not sell City Care.

But it still did not have the protection of being restored to the Council's strategic assets list (meaning that it can't be sold without public consultation).

Finally, it came to a debate and vote at the Council's June 20th meeting.

What the debate was about was the motion by Mayor Dalziel to not restore City Care to the strategic assets list.

That was defeated and replaced by a motion to restore City Care to the list.

That was passed, with only Councillors East and Gough voting against it. Even the Mayor turned around and voted in support of it.

Hereis the video clip of the debate (if you want to cut straight to the vote, it's around 23 minutes in).

It is well worth watching, for example, to hear Councillor Buck explain why she changed her mind after previously voting to sell City Care.

KOA claims victory, as City Care has been saved and we have been proven right on all points.

And we note the point made bv Councillor Turner in the debate - that Red Bus is now the only one of the Council's assets under the aegis of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd not to be on the strategic assets list. It also needs to be restiored to that list ASAP.

 

THE FIGHT TO SAVE CITY CARE

IS NOT OVER YET!

Support KOA AS We Make Our Submission To City Council Draft Annual Plan Hearing 

This Saturday, May 20th

Council Chamber, Level 2, City Council Building, 53 Hereford Street, 4.30 p.m.
(come a bit earlier in case we get called earlier. We've been asked to be there 20 minutes before our allotted time)


The Christchurch City Council finally saw sense in 2016 and abandoned its plan to sell City Care.

But Keep Our Assets Canterbury’s (KOA) fight to save City Care is not over yet.  At its November 2016 meeting the Council decided that, unlike with Enable, it would not restore City Care to its strategic assets list.

Instead it transferred any decision on City Care to its Draft Annual Plan process. KOA has made a submission to that and is among those to be heard by the Council at its hearing this Saturday, May 20th.

Our submission, to be presented by Steve Howard, covers a number of topics, such as housing, the living wage and roading. Our top two recommendations are that both City Care and Red Bus be restored to the Council's strategic assets list 

Being on the strategic assets list (which currently comprises the airport and port companies, Orion, Eco Central and Enable) means that those assets can’t be sold without a process of public consultation.

It doesn’t mean that they can’t be sold – it simply means that we, the people of Christchurch who own them, have to be “consulted” first.

If City Care is not on that strategic assets list, it can be sold by this or any future Council without further ado. So can Red Bus.

And what about the other assets that aren’t on that list?

What about the city’s huge portfolio of public housing? Christchurch City Council is the second biggest landlord in New Zealand – that public ownership must be protected.

The Council’s assets collection is many and varied. For example, it has announced that Lancaster Park is uneconomic to repair and must be demolished. So, what will happen to the publicly-owned land it sits on?

KOA will keep on keeping on until the Christchurch City Council completely removes asset sales from its policy agenda.

And we will keep on calling for a proper public engagement process about what does and doesn’t happen to these assets that belong to the people of Christchurch and surrounding areas.

You also need to be aware that the Council is currently proposing to give several parcels of land it owns to Development Christchurch Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (the Council's commercial holdings company, which runs its trading assets portfolio). 

One of the parcels of land the Council proposes to give away just happens to be City Care's Milton Street depot (the site of many of KOA's pickets in our successful campaign to stop the sale of City Care). We see this as just another move to make any future sale of City Care that much easier, and to make it that much harder for it to ever revert to being what it started off as - the Council's Works Department. KOA is keeping an eye on this. 



A very important Meeting



Please Note: until the URL hac.kiwi is installed you can find the HAC webpage here 

Behave like a Parliament

not a Board of Directors







 Open government is fundamental to democracy

Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) has it in writing from Christchurch’s Mayor, Lianne Dalziel, that the agenda for the City Council meeting this Wednesday (November 2nd) will include a decision on whether to restore Enable to the Council’s strategic assets list.



Enable is the Council’s broadband infrastructure company and is in charge of the ultra-fast broadband fibre optic cable rollout in the city.  When the Council voted (8-6) in 2015 to sell $750 million worth of publicly-owned assets over three years (a figure reduced to $600m in 2016), it only retained three assets on its strategic assets list: Orion (the electricity lines company) and the Christchurch Airport and Lyttelton Port companies.



Enable was quietly removed from that list, meaning that it could be sold without further notice (companies on the strategic assets list cannot be sold without a public consultation process).



In the course of the recent Mayoral election campaign Ms Dalziel was challenged about Enable by KOA’s candidate, John Minto.



This forced her to promise that putting it back on the strategic assets list would be on the agenda of the Council at its first post-election meeting.



So it is and KOA has it in writing from Mayor Dalziel that she will vote to restore it to the list (which is good news but only highlights that Enable should never have been removed from that list in the first place).



KOA has also learned that this Wednesday’s meeting will vote on whether to put City Care (the Council’s infrastructure and maintenance company) on the strategic assets list.



That will be an interesting debate and vote because the Council, with Mayor Dalziel to the fore, has just recently spent the best part of 18 months trying to flog off City Care as the first of the city’s public assets to be put on the block.



And KOA spent 18 months vigorously campaigning against that proposed sale



The Council failed to sell it and withdrew it from sale in August, in a stunning reversal for those Councillors hellbent on the privatisation agenda (so KOA 1; asset sellers nil).

 

KOA has no indication which way the Mayor will vote re City Care on Wednesday.



Nor are we, or anyone else, likely to find out.



Because the Enable and City Care items on the agenda are being held in a public excluded portion of the meeting.



Why? Does the Mayor not want the public and media to know which way she and the other Councillors who voted to sell City in 2015 will vote this time around?



KOA urges Councillors to put both Enable and City Care onto the strategic assets list.






Furthermore, we demand that the Council renounce plans to sell any publicly-owned assets. Permanently take that whole discredited and outdated 1980s’ relic off the Council agenda.



And stop these secret meetings, discussions and votes. These are our assets; the people of Christchurch are entitled to know the full details.



KOA says that the Council needs to behave like a Parliament, not the Board of Directors of a private company.



Remember that you are public servants, accountable to the public who pay your salaries.



You are not a business answerable only to shareholders


Open government is fundamental to democracy

Launching a housing advocacy group for Christchurch

Monday November 7th

7.15pm

WEA Hall

59 Gloucester Street

Special Guest Speakers:

  • ·         Vanessa Kururangi – Convenor of the Tauranga Housing Group which is fighting government plans to sell state houses in Tauranga
  • ·         Alan Johnson – Salvation Army housing spokesperson from Auckland
  • ·         Rev Sheena Dickson - convenor of the Church and Society Group at the Christchurch Presbytery.

This meeting will discuss the housing crisis for families on low incomes and will launch a Christchurch housing advocacy group.
This is an exciting development and not to be missed.

All welcome.

Sign-on for the mail list (opposite)

Facebook Event Page 

Thank You

Kia ora to the campaign team and campaign supporters

Thank you

A very heartfelt and personal thanks to everyone who helped out in so many ways on the Minto for Mayor campaign trail.

We were all surprised and delighted at the fabulous support through generous donations of money and expertise, many hours delivering leaflets, time on corners waving placards and help in so many other ways.

In total we raised about $20,000 in donations which enabled us to -

  • Print 65,000 leaflets which were delivered to homes across Christchurch
  • Produce and distribute 300 fence placards (100 each of three messages)
  • Produce a small number of large billboards
  • Broadcast dozens of 15s advertisements on commercial radio in the last two weeks of the campaign
  • Produce badges, bumper stickers and T-shirts
  • We were pleased that 12,500 Christchurch residents showed their trust and confidence in our campaign for me to lead the city.
We set out for the mayoralty with the modest objective of making asset sales a major election issue here in Christchurch and on this basis I stood as the Keep Our Assets Canterbury candidate.

I think the major success of our campaign has been to make it extremely difficult for the mayor and council to restart their asset sales programme. Our campaign has raised the political price for selling assets – in other words it is now an even more unpopular policy which I think the mayor and councillors will want to avoid.

We have also made other gains on issues like getting the government/council cost-sharing agreement out in the open and pledges from the mayor the city will be able to debate it.

Similarly we have helped change the public dialogue on other issues such as swimmable rivers, the living wage, high salaries for senior council managers and public transport.

These are all significant gains from the campaign and only possible because of your support.

Once again - Thank you all.

John Minto

Mayoral Candidate
KOA (Keep our Assets Canterbury)

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