It’s Living Wage week next week with events across the country. This is a campaign which everyone should be involved in. Why does it matter?
- Because contrary to some of the myths put about by the Tory-led Coalition and their friends, paying people decent wages actually is good for business and the economy – low paid people tend to spend their money rather than find tax-dodging ways of hiding it.
- Because it’s just not right that people aren’t paid enough to pay for the basics.
- Because topping up wages with tax credits, whilst helping the low paid to get by, is really a form of subsidy for low paying employers who don’t pay their workers enough at the same time as paying their directors and accountants plenty.
- Because decreasing the gap between highest and lowest paid is good for productivity, economic growth and reducing child poverty.
The Living Wage Foundation is an independent organisation which sets the Living Wage based on the average costs of rent, fuel, food etc. The current Living Wage hourly rate is £7.20 – hardly a fortune. Many organisations, local authorities, private companies and voluntary organisations are now accredited with the Living Wage Foundation as paying the Living Wage. Yet about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce, about 5 million people, are paid less than that.
So what can we do?
- If you are paid less than the Living Wage, contact your union to ask what they are doing to support the Living Wage campaign – and if you aren’t a member of a union, consider joining one – though I recognise that if you are on very low wages, this can seem like yet another expense, it is important to get support and we are stronger when we campaign together;
- Ask your own boss if there is anyone in your organisation who is paid less than the Living Wage (£7.20 per hour);
- Check if the organisations you are a trustee for are paying everyone above LW – I am in the process of checking on all three of the organisations for which I am a trustee and trying to find out how much private sub contractors are paying the catering staff at the school I am a governor for – probably the same contractors as your local school, if it is also a Bristol City Council school;
- Ask your friends and colleagues if they know what the Living Wage is and if they know anyone who is paid less – and suggest they contact their union if they are and find out what the union can do to support them to get the wage increased;
- If you are a boss or CEO of any organisation – small or large, public, private or voluntary – and you are paying everyone above the LW, consider applying to the Living Wage Foundation for accreditation so that you can show your customers, clients, supporters and everyone else that it can be done;
- Ask the person running any cafe, restaurant, shop, entertainment venue etc you go into over the week if they are paying the LW – if they are, show them you appreciate it, and if not, let them know your feelings;
- Contact your local councillor or the Mayoral candidate you are thinking of voting for on 15th November to find out what they are doing to support the Living Wage – Marvin Rees, the Labour candidate, has pledged to make Bristol a Living Wage city;
- Blog, tweet, email about Living Wage.
Please let me know about any progress you make, or problems you encounter. As your Labour prospective parliamentary candidate, I want to make sure no-one in Bristol West is paid less than the Living Wage. There should be no poverty in the UK, we are not a poor nation and the low paid should not be made to pay for the mistakes of bankers and big business. There is no excuse.