Frances O'Grady, the deputy general secretary of the TUC, met cooks, cleaners and labourers at the Civic Centre on a visit to the North East.
She discussed living wage proposals with the leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes, who wants to introduce the living wage for low paid staff at the council to reduce the pay gap.
The council is creating a living wage panel made up of representatives from education, trade unions, business and local government to look at the issues of low pay and what changes can be made.
The panel will be chaired by Olivia Grant, pro chancellor of Newcastle University, who has 25 years of experience in the business, community and public sectors of the North East.
Councillor Forbes said: "In 1998 the Government introduced a national minimum wage to underpin the labour market, improve work incentives - and above all to provide millions of the lowest paid employees a more secure rung on the ladder out of poverty.
"I want to see whether we can make a further step forward in Newcastle, alongside many other cities - including London, Manchester and Glasgow - to introduce a living wage, above the level set by the national minimum wage.
"Implementation within the council itself will have to be financed by efficiencies elsewhere, particularly in senior management costs. And of course we need to address the question of how high a living wage might be pitched, to offer real benefit to low paid workers without proving undeliverable."
The council expects to be the first organization in the city to implement a living wage for its staff.