This week, I feel proud to be able share the news that the Living Wage Foundation has formally recognised Bristol for its commitment to becoming a Living Wage City.
Not only are we amongst the first cities to achieve this, we are the biggest city to be recognised so far – an example of what we can achieve when we pull together as a city.
The TUC took to the stage at our City Gathering exactly a year ago to challenge the city to improve wages. Therefore, it seemed fitting that we used the City Gathering on Friday to share this major success with hundreds of employers across Bristol and launch this new status.
I was struck by how fair pay became a theme for the morning. It was highlighted as a crucial factor in reducing crime and Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, also shone a light on the importance of rising wages for the economy as a whole.
Financial security, or the lack of, affects every aspect of life. It impacts on a person’s housing situation, their mental and physical health, their educational attainment and their likelihood to be involved in crime.
Increasing the pay of those living and working in our city is key to unlocking improvements in each of these areas. As a tool for social justice, it’s vital. But it’s also good for business.
As Pete Gibbs, owner of the Volunteer Tavern, said to a room full of Bristol employers on Friday: ‘My staff are your customers, and your staff are my customers’. Higher wages means more money to put back into the economy.
In fact, the Living Wage Foundation has found that 93% of Living Wage businesses have benefited since accrediting, through improved recruitment and retention of staff, as well as fewer sick days taken.
As a city, we now have a 3-year plan, with ambitious targets: we want to double the number of Living Wage Employers in the next three years, lifting thousands more people out of in-work poverty. We plan to start by targeting those sectors where workers frequently find themselves trapped in low pay, such as hospitality, retail and tourism.
Working with a key Action Group of organisations representing different sectors, we will continue to influence change and strive for a future where everyone earns a fair wage for a hard day’s work; where earning a real Living Wage is the benchmark, not the aspiration.
This is just the start of our journey – and we need more organisations to work with us.
We’re organising a Living Wage Meet and Greet on Monday 17th February at 3.30pm at City Hall. It’s an opportunity to meet other employers and the Living Wage Foundation to learn more about how you can get involved. Please get in touch with the team to register your interest for this or future events by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making Bristol a Living Wage City is a perfect example of something we, as a council, could not achieve on our own. It demonstrates the collective power we have to make Bristol a fairer city for everyone and a true city of hope.
Thank you to all those who have helped us on our journey so far, by becoming Living Wage accredited employers, coming to events we’ve organised or being part of our Action Group.
In particular, thank you to our fellow Action Group members for being part of Making Bristol a Living Wage City, namely: University of Bristol, Triodos, DAC Beachcroft, Wessex Archaeology, the Soil Association, Bristol Credit Union, Business West and the TUC.