Last month MPs debated the notion of promoting a living wage as a solution . A cross-party committee of MPs supported the idea of ‘a fair days pay for a fair days work.’ The inquiry acknowledged the rising cost of living has hit families who are on low incomes and a review of the current benefits system could also be considered.
The basic idea of the living wage is that this level of pay is needed to let workers lead a decent life. It is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University according to the basic cost of living in the UK and currently stands at £7.85 per hour for people outside of London.
Employers can choose to pay the living wage on a voluntary basis and it not legally enforceable, unlike the national minimum wage. The national minimum hourly wage currently stands at:
- 21 and over: £6.50
- 18-20: £5.13
- Under 18: £3.79
The living wage is promoted by the Living Wage Foundation. They offer accreditation, advice and support to employers who pay the living wage and campaign for other companies to publicly back the campaign.
Last months figures on weekly wages confirmed Wales as the low-pay capital of Britain. The average weekly earnings in Wales are just £473.40 compared to the UK average of £518. However the average weekly pay in the Rhondda is at £476.4, up 1.5% on last year.
In April 2014 the Office for National Statistics released a report showing how the bottom 10 per cent of full time employees earned less than £288 per week, while the top 10 per cent of full time employees earned more than £1,024 per week.
In the cabinet meeting last month the need for better pay was discussed. MP Chris White said: “The Government are committed to raising the minimum wage and, through a provision in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, cracking down on employers who are evading their statutory responsibilities by significantly increasing—from £5,000 to £20,000—fines for underpaying staff.”
Care in Hand, the largest provider of care in Pembrokeshire, became the first care provider in the country to offer the living wage, and they have recently won The Living Wage Foundation’s Champion Award Winner for Wales.
34 companies have currently signed up to be Living Wage Employers in Wales, including, Barclays, Cardiff University, the National Assembly for Wales, Rhondda Cynon Taf Citizens Advice Bureau and Caerphilly County Borough Council.
RCT council currently employs a workforce of 11,628. Of the workers employed directly by the council, 3,158 positions are occupied where the hourly rate is less than the living wage, women hold 2,831 of these positions and men hold 327.
Plaid Cymru have long made the case for the living wage and creating a level playing field in the workplace. They propose a living wage for all and are campaigning to raise the wages of more than 250,000 workers. They think this will make Wales a high-value, high-quality business location.
Thunderclap, a digital activism and ‘crowdspeaking’ platform, provides individuals and organisations with the opportunity to spread particular messages. People can donate Tweets and social media posts to raise awareness on a topic within a particular time frame.
The UK Youth Parliament, run by young people, provides opportunities for 11-18 year olds to use their voices in creative ways to bring about social change.
They have started a Thunderclap campaign encouraging all local councils to become living wage employers. They will also ask local councils to promote the campaign to local businesses and will be asking MPs to support the campaign.
The campaign has already met its goal of gaining 100 supporters and has a social media reach of 123, 405. People have until the 24th January to support the campaign.
UNISON is another organisation which is campaigning for a living wage to be introduced. They argue that the national minimum wage is too low. Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary said on their website: “We won the minimum wage – I want to add a living wage to the list of the union’s achievements.”
This Christmas Share Action and Citizens UK have teamed up to create the #stopscrooging digital campaign. It is aimed at 12 of Britain’s biggest high-street retailers encouraging them to “bring the magic back to Christmas” by paying fair.
The campaign includes a magician called ‘G’ going into the retailers swapping their shelf price labels for parody shelf labels.
Unsurprisingly however, there has been some cynicism surrounding this notion.The cost to a company of increasing the minimum wage to the Living Wage could be around £100 per worker per week — or around £5,000 per worker per year.
This could be a crippling cost for small businesses, especially in places such as the Rhondda, where small businesses are already struggling to survive in the current economic climate. It could also lead to higher unemployment in the Valleys as employers struggle to meet the higher staffing costs.
So what do Rhondda People think about the introduction of a statutory Living Wage? Listen below!