Last week, 64 low-paid cleaners working at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Foreign Office left a letter on the desk of the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. They asked only that they be paid a living wage.A what?
The incident is testament to the fact that for the six million workers in Britain currently earning below a living wage (£8.30 in London and £7.20 elsewhere), pay is not doing enough to guarantee an adequate standard of living.But wait, you cry! What about the minimum wage? I thought that was supposed to cure all ills?
Suddenly, it’s not good enough?
Over the past decade, the social consequences of Britain's endemic levels of low-wage work have been masked to a large extent by the lifeline which tax credits have offered to low- to middle-income households.Ah, indeed. The ridiculous idea that we should take money off people merely to then turn around and hand it back to them is an utter nonsense that has rightly imploded.
Without them, many struggling families would have seen their living standards tumble sharply. Yet few, if any, believe that the growth in tax credit support that occurred over the past decade can be repeated.That’s because the money’s run out.
Yet despite some high-profile successes, the number of accredited living wage employers remains small.So who are they?
Those that invest in their employees are confined largely to high-profile financial and legal firms...Oh?
… and public sector bodies.So….the organisations jumping on board this bandwagon are the ones that:
A) generally come in for all the criticism from the left for making huge profits, and
B) those that don’t have to worry about making a profit because the taxpayer’s tap is permanently switched to ‘on’?
A living wage is not about obliging employers to pay higher wages through legislation, that is what the minimum wage is for.And oh, how quickly those goalposts moved once you’d achieved it, eh?
But even in today's economy, there are opportunities for leadership. The apparent affordability of a living wage in key sectors presents a challenge to large companies: be clear about why you cannot pay a living wage or take concrete steps to do so and thereby ensure that the wages you pay are enough to secure an adequate standard of living for your low-paid employees.Or ignore this campaign and let your competitors go bust trying to do the impossible; appease the left!