Last week was Living Wage Week. The UK-wide event (November 3-9) celebrated the success to date of the Living Wage campaign – and recognised those Living Wage employers who reward a fair day’s work with a fair day’s pay.
The ‘living wage’ means paying employees £7.65 per hour (a new figure announced this week). That currently amounts to just an additional £1.34 per hour of work – not much you might think. But for the people I’ve spoken to who have gone from the minimum wage to the living wage, it has made a huge difference, perhaps even bridging the gap between staying afloat and falling into debt.
This issue is more important than ever, as we are in the midst of the most sustained cost-of-living crisis since the 1870s – a crisis that is affecting many hard-working people right across the constituency.
After inflation, pay in Wales is on average £1600 a year lower since this Government came into office. At the same time as wages have been falling, costs have been increasing, with prices rising faster than wages in 39 of the 40 months of this Government. People are working harder, for longer, for less.
But implementing the Living Wage has been proven to benefit businesses, employees, and society as a whole. Adopting it helps to enhance the quality of work produced by staff; improves recruitment and retention rates; generates consumer commitment to an ethically-viewed employer; and of course helps employees to better provide for themselves and their families in these difficult times.
Figures show that to date, the Living Wage has helped lift more than 45,000 people out of debt. But despite the undoubted success of the campaign so far, there are still far too many people who remain unable to benefit from it.
Living Wage Week – whilst a celebration of the success achieved so far and a chance to highlight the lives that have been changed as a result – is also an opportunity for a practical conversation with employers who feel they cannot afford to pay it.
Last month Ed Miliband vowed that the next Labour government would strengthen the minimum wage, in order to make work pay for millions of people and businesses. I want to see an economy where prosperity is fairly shared with good, well-paid jobs – and fairness and security in the workplace.
* Stephen writes his weekly View from Westminster column for the Penarth Times (www.penarthtimes.co.uk) – this column was printed on October 31, 2013.