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August 9, 2017

It pays to pay well

In 2001, a small group of parents in the East End of London began to campaign for a level of wage that they felt was the absolute minimum required in order to meet the cost of living. This quickly evolved into the Living Wage Campaign and in recent years this has been taken forward in Scotland by the Poverty Alliance. Some small employers, particularly cash strapped community groups, might feel that it is beyond their means to find the extra from within their budget. Wester Hailes community arts group, WHALE, beg to differ.

Nan Spowart

Increasing expenditure by agreeing to pay the real living wage was a major step for one small community-led organisation.  However, the Whale Arts Agency, which is based in the Edinburgh estate of Wester Hailes, has noticed the benefit.

“Innovative efforts to tackle poverty and inequality are at the heart of Whale’s creative work in Wester Hailes,” said Whale Arts board member Susan Gibson.

“Becoming a living wage employer helps to highlight this issue on a national level and has a positive financial impact at a local level in Wester Hailes.

“For Whale, as a small community-led organisation, adopting the real living wage has been a challenge.

“Committing to increase expenditure at a time when budgets are tight was a big step but the positive impact for individual staff, the organisation, and our community has confirmed that it was the right decision.”

The move means that Whale has now joined more than 800 other organisations across Scotland in becoming an accredited living wage employer.

Since being set up by local people in 1992, Whale Arts has firmly established itself as the cultural anchor organisation for Wester Hailes. As a community-led arts charity and social enterprise, its mission is to be the creative heart of a vibrant, thriving community.

Whale acts as a conduit between the community and creative opportunities through the direct delivery of projects, programmes and events and by connecting the community with city and national cultural partners.

With over 7000 people visiting the Whale Arts Centre per year, the organisation is well placed to raise the profile of the real living wage and encourage other employers to sign up.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “Over two thirds of the children that are living in poverty in Scotland are living in a household where at least one adult works.

“This shows that work is not working as an effective route out of poverty and paying the real living wage is one of the key tools at our disposal to help make an impact on this.

“We are delighted to congratulate Whale Arts Agency on becoming a living wage employer. Paying the real living wage makes a huge difference to people’s lives, and employers can enjoy a range of business benefits too, including increased productivity, increased staff retention and lower rates of absenteeism.”

The living wage commitment will see everyone working at Whale Arts — regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors — receive a real living wage of at least £8.45 per hour, which is significantly higher than the government minimum wage of £6.70 and the new minimum wage premium for over 25s of £7.50 introduced last April.

Full time employees earning the real living wage earn £45 a week more than those on the government minimum.

The real living wage is an hourly rate, calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, based on the best available evidence on living standards in the UK.

It is higher than the UK Government’s so-called “living wage” which is a rebranding of the legally binding minimum wage and only applies to those over the age of 25.

The real living wage applies to everyone over the age of 18.