Living Wage campaign

Living Wage campaign


Written by: Harmit Athwal

A few weeks ago, as thousands queued outside Westminster Abbey to catch a glimpse of Kate’s wedding bouquet, hundreds of others gathered nearby in Central Hall for another kind of celebration.

The event was organised by Citizens UK, which has over 240 member organisations – churches, mosques, synagogues, trade unions, community groups, from all over the UK, to (re)launch the Living Wage Campaign, initially launched in 2001. The campaign came out of a meeting held in east London where families spoke about the pressure on them to deliver a decent quality of life while struggling to maintain up to three jobs to provide for their families and called on employers to ‘recognise their responsibility to end poverty pay.’

The Living Wage for London has been set at £8.30 and the Living Wage for outside London is £7.20 and these rates can be contrasted to the minimum wage that is just £5.93 per hour. The Campaign aims to target High Street companies to get them to pay their low-paid workers such as cleaners and security guards (who in many instances will be from BME and migrant communities) a wage that provides a decent quality of life.

The Living Wage Campaign has already had success, particularly after campaigns conducted at London universities by cleaners on low wages, read an IRR News story: ‘SOAS occupied after cleaners detained and forcibly removed’. On the day, numerous employers lined up to impress those attending with their ethical credentials by having signed up to the Living Wage Campaign. There were representatives from KPMG, Linklaters, Queen Mary University, Fallon Adverting Agency and LUSH (the first national High Street retailer to sign up) to name just a few. Three council leaders, Steve Bullock (Lewisham), Catherine West (Islington) and Lutfur Rahman (Tower Hamlets) all committed themselves to rolling out the Living Wage to employees at their respective councils. It was also announced that the 2012 Olympics are to be the first ever Living Wage Olympics.

The Living Wage Foundation was also launched at the event, which has been established to support new campaigns and celebrate ongoing Living Wage campaigns. Those present were also told how the Campaign was gathering pace as other organisations became involved: FairPensions, which campaigns for responsible investment has joined and sent letters to FTSE 100 companies asking about their policy on a Living Wage. They are also asking individuals to lobby their banks and pensions funds to ensure that a Living Wage is paid in its Just Pay! Living Wages campaign. The Living Wage Campaign is also being taken in earnest to the retail sector, with many actions planned at AGMs and companies such as Tesco’s being targeted. A number of schoolchildren told how they had been approaching their local Tesco to ask if the Living Wage was being paid to its cleaners.

Find out how to take action for a Living Wage for all by following the links below.

Related links

Citizens UK

Facebook: Citizens UK

Citizens UK: Living Wage Campaign

Living Wage Foundation

IRR News story: ‘SOAS occupied after cleaners detained and forcibly removed’


FairPensions: Just Pay! Living Wages

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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