Napier Council staff have hit back at the mayor's claims they were paid well.
Council staff contacted Hawke's Bay Today after reading that Napier's mayor Barbara Arnott would be "very surprised" if any council employees were not receiving a "living wage" in Hawke's Bay. A council-employed lawnmower, who asked not to be named, said Ms Arnott was "not in touch with reality".
"She would be very surprised if she found out how many people there were [paid under the living wage]."
He estimated as many as 35 council staff were paid less.
The living wage debate stemmed from a report by Lower Hutt's Anglican Family Centre, which calculated the wage required for a couple with two children to "live with dignity and to participate as active citizens in society" was $18.40 an hour.
Ms Arnott admitted she did not know how many Napier City Council workers were paid less than $18.40 an hour. "I would be very surprised if any of our workers weren't okay," she said.
The anonymous council employee said most council staff were on a grade-based pay system which started at $15.62 on grade two and finished at $17.62 on grade five. "It's just hard all round, you've got insurance, petrol, food ... fortunately most of us have got wives and partners who work as well," he said.
"Even if we were paid $20 an hour, I'm sure it would still be hard to live."
He said he was glad there was renewed discussion about wages but was aware that ratepayers would have to bear the brunt of any wage increases.
Other Parks and Recreation staff had also voiced their frustrations with Ms Arnott's comments, he said.
"They're just really upset."
Napier City Council city executive Neil Taylor said he wasn't prepared to comment on whether council staff were paid a liveable wage or not.
"I'm not going to negotiate wages via the newspaper," Mr Taylor said. "I negotiate wages with the staff and the union."
The Family Centre report said the $18.40 figure was based on the cost of Otago University's "basic" food diet for a couple with two children ($226 a week), the national lower-quartile rent for a three-bedroom house of $275 a week, and other costs totalling $537 a week based on the average spending by families earning below the median household income.