Paying fair

It’s Living Wage Week, the annual celebration of the Living Wage movement, and yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at the South West celebration event.

The week provides an opportunity to champion the movement for fair pay and it was brilliant to see so many people come together yesterday in support of the Real Living Wage initiative.

A particular highlight was the news that the University of the West of England have recently become a Living Wage accredited employer. I’d like to congratulate them for taking this step.

Bristol City Council became a Living Wage employer back in 2018, and in January of this year we were able to announce that we’d been recognised for our efforts towards making Bristol a Living Wage City. This puts us among the first few places to berecognised in this way, and the largest city so far.

Research from Cardiff University was presented at yesterday’s event, showing that Bristol is outperforming most comparable cities when it comes to the number of people uplifted onto the Real Living Wage. There are now 380 accredited employers in the South West, and 80 employers in the region have become accredited this year alone, in spite of the pandemic.

This is encouraging, and I thank businesses for their efforts so far, but there remains much more to do.

Our action group are aiming to more than double the number of people employed by accredited employersin the next 3 years, lifting more people in the city out of in-work poverty. But we want this work to go beyond city boundaries.

We’re well placed to do this, with Cardiff also being part of the small group currently recognised under the Living Wage places scheme. Our economic area is highly interconnected, with more daily journeys made between Bristol and Cardiff than between Manchester and Leeds.

With work on the Western Gateway progressing, we must capitalise on this collective power and we will be seeking opportunities to work together in driving forward this agenda.

There is a strong moral argument for paying the Real Living Wage to all workers. It is right that work is properly compensated and that wages allow people to live a full life with dignity.

But this is not just about virtue signalling. It makes economic sense, creating healthier and more resilient communities that place less strain on public services. People with greater disposable income spend that money elsewhere in our economy, supporting local businesses. And for employers, better wages are linked to improved recruitment and retention of staff, making it a sound investment.

This year has been very humbling and has led many to reflect on how we value our key workers. It’s great therefore to see key worker pay highlighted as part of this year’s Living Wage Week, and it will be a focus for our Bristol Living Wage Action Group in the coming year too.

On the theme of key worker pay, I’d like to finish by sharing the below video from pupils at St Antony’s Primary School. Not only does it communicate a very important message, it’s also incredibly catchy!

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