Fifth Column are proud to be a living wage-accredited employer and have been paying the London Living Wage since 2013. This week (Monday 11th to Sunday 17th November 2019) is Living Wage Week and, amongst other things, sees the announcement of the new hourly wage rates. That’s £9.30 for the UK as a whole and £10.75 for the higher cost of living in London.
It struck us as an appropriate moment to restate our support for the Living Wage movement, celebrate its achievements, and also think about how much further we need to go as a society. How great it would be if more employers were in a position to support the campaign. Better still, how great it would be if there was no longer any need because the official minimum wage made the campaign obsolete.
What the Real Living Wage Means
The real Living Wage is independently calculated and based on what employees and their families need to live. Paying it is currently a voluntary decision, something employers choose to do, as opposed to a legal requirement. It’s worth noting that the real Living Wage is more than the government’s minimum wage (confusingly rebranded as the National Living Wage). The higher rate is an important distinction and one that can’t be underestimated. It has a big impact on how folk actually live.
“The Living Wage is the difference between existing and having a life. Before I was working but couldn’t afford heating in my flat”
It’s difficult to deny comments like that. The real Living Wage isn’t an excessive amount of money per hour. It’s a sensible figure, an independent assessment of what’s reasonable and fair. Yet it changes lives.
How the campaign started makes for interesting reading. It was launched by members of London Citizens at the start of the millennium. Normal people unable to make ends meet, despite having two or more minimum wage jobs, coming together to campaign for better wages. Raising awareness, making the problem more visible and harder to ignore.
By 2004, the first UK business was paying the London Living Wage. When we get to 2012, the London Olympics were employing staff at this rate. A couple of years later and we’re talking about a national movement. By 2018 there are 5,500 employers paying the real London Living wage and the number is growing.
Achievements are always important and they’re impressive. The campaign for a real Living Wage has now delivered more than £1 billion in extra wages to workers since it began in 2001.
200,000 people have been lifted out of in-work poverty.
It’s Good Business
Adopting the real Living Wage isn’t simply the right thing to do, it’s good business into the bargain. The research makes a very good case. Take a look at some of the figures.
93% of university graduates want to work for a Living Wage employer.
93% of the Living Wage network say it has benefitted their business.
90% of consumers agreed that pay should reflect living costs.
86% of Living Wage employers reported an increase in staff motivation since accrediting.
Paying decent wages is going to make you more attractive to employees and customers alike. It stands to reason that staff will be more motivated if they feel like they’re being treated fairly. And consumers have confidence in companies that take their responsibilities seriously. It differentiates you from others in your industry and enhances your reputation.
A Fair Day’s Pay
Here at Fifth Column we take pride in our work. Over the years, we’ve produced millions of pieces of merchandise, all decorated to the highest standard. Everything you can imagine. T-shirts printed with eye-catching artwork, tote bags embellished with clever brand concepts, polos embroidered with memorable company logos.
Our success as a commercial enterprise owes a lot to that commitment to quality, but we also believe a big part of it is down to simply being decent. We do our best to make ethical decisions and treat folk fairly. That means how we deal with customers, the blank products we endorse and the causes we promote. It also means a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.