QAC pays all staff the living wage

Team members from across Queenstown Airport Corporation and House of Hygiene.

Many Wānaka locals survive paycheck to paycheck with a cost of living that is absurdly high and, if compared, wages that are very low. Finally though, there is some good news for roughly 80 employees over the other side of the hill. Queenstown Airport Corporation has been recognised as the first airport company to achieve Living Wage accreditation in New Zealand. 

“This was a proactive business initiative with the full support of the board and senior leadership team. Living Wage accreditation aligns with our company's core values, ‘one team’ philosophy and sustainability strategy,” commented Donna Darlington, manager people and culture from QAC. 

The Living Wage concept is very simple, yet such a powerful alternative: it’s the hourly wage a worker needs to pay for the necessities of life and participate as an active citizen in the community. It reflects the basic expenses of workers and their families such as food, transportation, housing and childcare, and is calculated independently each year by the New Zealand Family Centre Social Policy Unit. “We are excited to welcome QAC on board as the first airport company in Aotearoa to achieve Living Wage Employer Accreditation. By paying the Living Wage, QAC is enabling their workers to survive, thrive and also enjoy the beautiful area they live in,” said Felicia Scherrer, from Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ. 

“We are providing them with our uniform, paying them the living wage, involving them in our social activities and ensuring they have shared access to areas like our lunchroom, the showers and lockers. They are very much one of us under the new contract conditions. This one-team approach has to be worked on and you have to invest in it. But the payback is there in our scores for customer satisfaction. I am also getting positive feedback from staff who have seen the custodians really take charge,” said Daniel Dodd, manager terminal operations. 

The Wānaka Sun looked into the living wage a few months ago, and questioned whether the national living wage of $21.50 was accurate for Wānaka, considering how high the cost of living is. Feedback received was that it was nowhere near high enough—$28 was suggested as more accurate — from an employee point of view, but unachievable from an employer point of view, due to overheads and seasonal fluctuations.

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