Tower Hamlets shining example in London Assembly’s Living Wage call

Organisations in the East End are among the best in London for giving a living wage to low-paid workers.

Some 22 companies and public bodies in Tower Hamlets—where the Living Wage campaign was started a decade ago—and 10 more close by, are accredited as London Living Wage employers.

But two-thirds of London boroughs are yet to be accredited, according to the London Assembly.

Social Services are still making “slow progress” in applying fair wages to contracted-out care workers, a report by the Assembly’s economy committee reveals later today.

Assembly members have cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s pledge to make the Living Wage standard within eight years, with such slow progress in hospitality and catering, cleaning and retail trades and especially social care.

“The Mayor must target sectors where low pay is most prevalent if the Living Wage is to be the norm by 2020,” the Assembly’s Economy chair Stephen Knight said. “A functioning city depends on workers in these industries to meet its basic needs.

“The public sector can lead the way in pressing for increased wages by showing employers in these industries the economic benefits of a Living Wage.”

Around 750,000 workers in London earn less than the living wage who continue struggling to make ends meet.

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Local authorities should be the driving force in spreading decent pay, the Assembly urges, particularly with connections to employers through the contract procurement process.

A cohort of 20 employer ‘champions’ in low-paying industries would advocate the Living Wage to firms, the Assembly suggests.

The Mayor should make sure his Policing & Crime Office and the Met Police comply to the Living Wage in the next two years and should also use procurement, investment and other commercial decisions to push for living wages to industry, the Assembly’s report urges.

The London Enterprise Panel is also being asked to take a lead in increasing the skills of low-paid workers.

The campaign was started in 2003 by Telco, The East London Communities Organsation, part of Citizens UK network, who scored their first victory with the banks at Canary Wharf, followed by Tower Hamlets Council, Queen Mary’s College in Whitechapel and Mile End and Barts NHS Trust at the Royal London, Mile End and London Chest hospitals.

The Living Wage campaign was started in 2003 by Telco, The East London Communities Organisation, part of Citizens UK network, who scored their first victory with Barclay’s Bank Canary Wharf HQ, followed by Tower Hamlets Council and Queen Mary’s College in Whitechapel and Mile End.

The council has paid all directly-employed staff and agency temps at or above the Living Wage since 2008. It formally implemented the policy in 2011 which features in all strategic contracts and for inclusion in all other contracts. The authority claims 100 per cent success rate in making sure contractors comply.

Today, Telco’s campaign has reached all 33 London boroughs—but many areas still lag behind the lead set in the East End 11 years ago.