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April 27, 2010

Campaign progress means pounds in people’s pockets

The value of effective campaigning should never be underestimated.  London Citizens reckons its Living Wage Campaign has put approximately £32m in the pockets of London’s low waged workers.  It’s estimated that 700,000 employees in Scotland earn less than the Living Wage – currently set at £7 per hour.   Good news recently from long term LPL supporter, Employers in Voluntary Housing who report that over 100 housing associations have become the latest group of employers to agree this as the new ‘minimum wage’ for their staff

More than 100 housing associations have agreed to introduce the ‘living wage’ for their staff.

The deal means that none of the 2500 employees covered by the agreement will be paid less than £7 an hour.

The Scottish Living Wage campaign was launched by the STUC, Unison, Faith in Community Scotland and the Poverty Alliance in a bid to persuade employers in the private, public and voluntary sectors to raise the salaries of low paid staff.

Campaigners argue that many workers who are paid the National Minimum Wage, or just above it, struggle to provide for themselves or their families.

The Scottish Living Wage, currently set at £7 an hour based on calculations done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has already been backed by Glasgow City Council, which signed up last year, and Scottish Enterprise, which agreed the minimum with its staff last month.

Representatives of the housing association movement will be presented with an employers’ award at the STUC Congress in Dundee tomorrow after becoming the latest organisation to negotiate a living wage deal.

Foster Evans, director of employers’ association EVH – which led the negotiations for the 101 housing associations involved – said he was delighted to be associated with the scheme. “The union Unite raised it as part of their negotiations with us, and agreed to accept a cost of living increase at slightly below the rate of inflation to enable us to introduce it,” he said. “It may not be the most radical change ever but it is a strong signal of intent. We want to be amongst the increasing group of employers that support basic social justice initiatives.”

Mr Evans said the staff who would benefit included cleaning and catering staff in some housing associations as well as some workers in sheltered housing. He added that most housing associations employ their staff directly and board members who give up their time to run local housing associations tend to be well placed to see the benefit of better pay in their own local communities.

Unite regional officer Jackson Cullinane said: “The inclusion of our request for a Living Wage was based on our union’s firm commitment to address low pay and pay inequality. Its achievement will benefit women and young workers in particular.”

He added that the agreement to forego part of an inflation-linked pay increase for all in order to benefit the lowest paid was a testimony to the principles and values of members.

Eddie Follan, campaigns officer of the Scottish Poverty Alliance added: “This is a great example of how the living wage can be used in pay negotiations.”

He said the campaign would continue to press for more employers in the public sector to back the standard. An estimated 700,000 employees in Scotland are paid less than the living wage.