The Living Wage Matters / Rev. Helen Jacobi & A.J. Hendry

A.J. Hendry: In today’s piece Rev. Helen Jacobi of St. Matthews shares why she, alongside, her faith community, support a Living Wage. It’s Living Wage week, so it’s an important opportunity to reflect on how important it to ensure that our people have what they need, not just to survive, but to thrive. I’m going to hand this over to Helen in a moment, but before I do, I wanted to ground this kaupapa a bit.

We have a narrative in our country about hard work, you work hard, you get what you deserve. And yet, as easy as that may be to say, the reality is that it just isn’t true. Since covid 19 has been in our communities, some of the hardest worker’s have continued to be paid some of the lowest wages. Cleaners, supermarket workers, these positions which have for far too long been viewed as less important, of less value, have suddenly become essential. In fact, they were always essential. These are the people who keep our communities clean, they prepare our food, they make sure that we have access to the food and resources we need. It’s not easy work, if you’ve ever followed a cleaner around, you’ll know how hard they work. And yet, we’ve been ok with viewing the roles they perform in our communities, viewing their lives, as of less value as others?

These people, the roles they fill in our community, they have always been essential.

I’m going to hand you over to Helen to discuss why she supports this kaupapa.

Rev. Helen: This is Living Wage Week, celebrating the 300 employers across Aotearoa New Zealand who have committed to paying a minimum rate of $22.75 an hour to their employees and contractors.

St Matthew-in-the-City has been a supporter of the Living Wage Movement for some years. When the Movement was established in 2013 I have to confess I thought it was going to be pretty tough to get this over the line in so many workplaces. But due to the amazing hard work of people in the movement, their tenacity, and excellent community development skills this movement is now really strong.

A Living Wage is absolutely essential if we are to combat poverty in Aotearoa. And Living Wage employers recognise that people deserve a decent wage and that as an employer they can make a real difference to the wellbeing of people. What is there not to love about that?

As a community of faith we don’t just care about people’s “spiritual” lives, we care about every aspect of life. In the Bible God is always portrayed as being on the side of the “poor, the widow and the orphan.” Actual real things like food and shelter matter to God. People’s wellbeing matters.

We know that many of the people who seek food assistance from the City Mission are people with employment. Yet they still need food parcels.

Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson says, “Inadequate income is a key driver of poverty and food insecurity and puts thousands of families across Aotearoa in a precarious position every day. If all workers are paid fairly and competitively, it will alleviate this position for many. Everyone deserves a fair, meaningful wage for the work they do – one that allows them to access basic necessities with pride and with dignity.”

Every week (when we are in church) St Matthew’s parishioners bring food items for the City Mission foodbank. At the same time parishioners also support the Living Wage Movement in calling for all employers to pay a decent wage.

As people return to work after the lockdowns their needs and rights to a decent income have not changed, in fact they are more urgent than ever.

Check out the movement here https://www.livingwage.org.nz/accredited_employers and in particular the handy list of employers – support those who support their workers with a living wage.

A.J. Hendry: I really like what Helen has to say here about the Divine always being on the side of the poor, and her challenge that employer’s can make a real difference in the lives of their employees by providing a living wage.

I think there is an important challenge here for employer’s who may not – as of yet – be providing their staff with a living wage. As Helen highlight’s, many of the people that are in need of assistance from the City Mission’s food banks have full time employment. And yet, even then, they do not have enough to provide for themselves or their family.

There is something not quite right about that.

The myth of work hard bringing with it reward, is proved just that, a myth.

Our employers have an opportunity, no a moral duty, to explore how they can ensure that their staff are taking home a decent wage. That people can work hard all day, and yet still go home and struggle to put food on the table for their kids, keep the power on, and pay the rent, show’s the growing need for economic justice to address and eradicate poverty from within our nation.

And you, if you are an employer, have a unique opportunity to be a part of the solution here. To examine how your business works, to ensure that it isn’t solely focused on increasing your bottom line, but also on increasing the health, and wellbeing of the dedicated staff who make your business tick.

Rev Dr Helen Jacobi MNZM is an Anglican priest and is the vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City. Helen has a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching (Chicago), and degrees in theology, languages, and social work.

St Matthew-in-the-City seeks to be a church which reflects the diversity of Auckland city and stands with those on the margins. The focus of Helen’s work has always been the engagement of the church in society, and challenging the church to reflect better the society it operates within. Helen’s blog Spirited Edge can be found at https://helenjacobi.com/ and she tweets @RevHelenJacobi

A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also an advocate working collectively to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.

Though we try to keep up with all our comments and feedback, we do sometimes struggle to monitor all platforms. If you do want to engage in the conversation join us on facebook and find the relevant post or connect directly with A.J on his facebook page here, twitter here, or Instagram here.

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