We, in the North East, are often accused of ‘lagging behind’ other regions in various ways, although I’m not entirely sure how many sleepless nights this causes in the region. One area where it would have been nice to have been leaders rather than followers, however, is in recognising the importance of paying employees a Living Wage. In case you’ve missed it, this week is Living Wage Week in the UK and the new rate of £7.45 per hour was announced by Julia Unwin, the Chief Exec of JRF, on Monday.
The Living Wage Foundation also released a list of accredited Living Wage employers which, unfortunately, did not contain any local or regionally based organisations. However, it is not all bad news (in fact there’s some very good news and reasons to be optimistic about the future pay for the lowest paid employees in the region. Here, then, are some reasons to be cheerful:
- Scotswood Natural Community Garden in the West End of Newcastle are an accredited Living Wage employer (we believe they are the first and only organisation based in the region – although they don’t appear on the list) and, as a small charity reliant on grant funding for most of their income, they deserve praise for taking the step towards being a Living Wage employer. They have chosen to become a Living Wage employer, I understand, because it fits with their aim of promoting sustainable living.
- Newcastle City Council have become the first public sector organisation in the region to commit to being a Living Wage employer, although they have decided not to pursue accreditation at this stage. They are also encouraging other employers in the city to also become Living age employers and one large property development company responsible for the regeneration of a large area of the city centre is exploring the financial implications of paying the Living Wage to staff in a new hotel that is planned.
- Durham University Labour Club have started campaigning on the issue of a Living Wage to get Durham University to become a Living Wage employer. They have written an excellent blog on the subject which highlights that one of a PVC for Durham wrote in a JRF report exploring how universities could help disadvantaged communities that they can ‘also set an example to other employers by promoting good practice, such as ensuring that all employees are paid at least the Living Wage’. They have also set up a petition which will be delivered to the University and I would encourage people to sign it.
- The Northern TUC (who have been quite busy recently with work around regional pay in the public sector) are continuing to work with a number of public sector organisations in the region to encourage them to become Living Wage employers. They are holding what is likely to be an excellent and packed event in Middlesbrough tomorrow (Friday 9th November) to discuss the reality of austerity and what poverty pay means for millions of workers across the UK.
- This post is part of a Blog Action Day, organised in conjunction with VONNE, the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in the North East. Jo Curry, their Chief Exec, recently spoke in favour of the Living Wage at an event where the role of the institutional behaviour of organisations in producing and reproducing poverty was discussed. Carrie Brookes has written an excellent blog summarising some of the issues facing voluntary sector staff here and the issue was also discussed at the Newcastle CVS AGM earlier this week. Jeremy Cripps, the Chief Exec of Children North East is also due to publish a blog about the subject here. In other words, the voluntary sector in the region are now talking about the Living Wage and what it means for them….
So, it is rare that David Cameron and I are in agreement, but on this we are. He said that the Living Wage was ‘an idea whose time has come’ and it appears that us folk in the North East are beginning to think he may just be right.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has not felt it unnecessary to act in support of his statement since becoming Prime Minister. We, however, will extend an offer to any representatives from employers in the North East reading this blog. We, the North East Child Poverty Commission, will work with you to provide you with as much information and support as we can possibly can to demonstrate that paying a Living Wage can be a very good, sound business decision. I’m sure the Northern TUC and the Living Wage Foundation will make similar offers, if appropriate.