Living Wage campaigns across London


12:57 pm - November 21st 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday evening I attended the launch of the London Living Wage campaign at Kings College London – aimed at helping the cleaners and caterers at the uni. Various organisations in London already pay the LLW to their lowest paid, including Barclays, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, PWC, IPPR, City Hall, LDA, Police, TFL, Westway Shopping.

I like the campaign especially because its driven by London Citizens, and done in their grassroots organising style. One of their key focuses now is on Higher Education. This week KCL and Birkbeck kick off their campaigns, run mostly by students (over 30 people turned up last night to get involved!), on the back of recent successes at London School of Economics, SOAS and Queen Mary’s.

A representative from LSE recounted how their group had to run a guerilla PR campaign to force the uni through with their promises. This even involved demonstrating at recruitment fairs where companies that didn’t pay the LLW came to recruit. It embarassed the university and employers: things moved quicker.

Even Boris Johnson supports the LLW, what’s not to like? Don’t answer that, right-wing libertarian readers. I’m going to keep the blog updated with the LLW campaigns across London. If your university doesn’t pay it yet, then get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction so you can help organise and start a campaign.
Update: Noel helpfully points to a Compass LLW campaign toolkit.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


well, one things for sure: if an increase in the effective minimum wage does decrease employment, it’s going to be very hard to tell amid the carnage.

(can’t left wing non-libertarians be worried about adverse effects from minimum wages? I’m not especially worried, as it happens, but still)

Two points leap out at me from this.

The very concept of a living wage “in London” tells us that the cost of living varies across the country. So we shouldn’t in fact have a “national” minimum wage, nor in fact national pay bargaining. Pay should be determined in the context of local issues. That is what you’re saying, yes?

The second is that the national minimum now is 5.73 or so and the difference between that and, for someone working full time, the desired London living wage, is around 3,300 pounds a year. That same person on that London living wage wopuld be paying some 2,600 or so in income tax and NI. Wouldn’t it be rather easier to increase their standard of living by simply not taking the tax from them?

They are doing a fantastic job (London Citizens). Neil and the crew know how to galzanise support- they should write a book on successful campaigning!

The very concept of a living wage “in London” tells us that the cost of living varies across the country. So we shouldn’t in fact have a “national” minimum wage, nor in fact national pay bargaining. Pay should be determined in the context of local issues. That is what you’re saying, yes?

Is this a significant issue anywhere other than London? If so, I guess you could make a case for that.

The second is that the national minimum now is 5.73 or so and the difference between that and, for someone working full time, the desired London living wage, is around 3,300 pounds a year. That same person on that London living wage wopuld be paying some 2,600 or so in income tax and NI. Wouldn’t it be rather easier to increase their standard of living by simply not taking the tax from them?

Why should taxpayers subsidise employers who don’t want to pay their staff a living wage?

“Why should taxpayers subsidise employers who don’t want to pay their staff a living wage?”

Eh? Do you regard the personal allowance as a subsidy from the taxpayer? I certainly don’t.

Wouldn’t it be rather easier to increase their standard of living by simply not taking the tax from them?

Much too rational, I’m afraid. What we want is layers of bureaucracy and plenty of opportunity to get it wrong. Oh, and if you could throw in a malfunctioning, over-budget and late IT system, so much the better.

Eh? Do you regard the personal allowance as a subsidy from the taxpayer? I certainly don’t.

Well it’s a question of who pays isn’t it. If you raise people’s net income by raising their tax allowances then, all other things being equal, that has to be paid for by higher taxes on other people. Now there’s certainly an argument for doing that as a general redistributative measure, but the principle behind the minimum wage and the “living wage” is that employers should pay their staff enough to live on.

If the minimum wage ism by deinition, enough to live on, then why does someone who works full time on it pay nearly £2,500 a year in income tax and NIC? It’s entirely inconsistent to tax the amount that is “enough to live on”.

“Don’t answer that, right-wing libertarian readers.”

And Balls…(or, at least, his staff)…

Check out the toolkit we developed with London Citizens
http://www.compassonline.org.uk/news/item.asp?n=3024

I think Timmy has the conceptual problem identified pretty much. I suppose the other problem is that if you make ordinarily cash-strapped bodies like Birkbeck and KCL pay higher rates for their cleaners, they may end up paying for less cleaning than they otherwise would choose to. Or expand their premises/projects at a slower rate, or have shorter opening hours in various departments, to prevent too much work requiring cleaning from happening. That would have an unfortunate impact on the staff and students. As for the cleaners, there would be fewer of them, but better paid, which means you would have more unemployed than otherwise (i.e. new staff would not be hired for longer, existing staff in a recession would tend to be lost faster).

Alternatively, the universities may beg for more money from the government, which would increase government spending and impact on inflation (which would hit low paid workers hardest), or they might beg for the the right to increase the top-up fees of students, which might have a longer term impact on social mobility. Whichever way you cut it, you can’t guarantee a net benefit for cleaners, rather than just shifting and the costs that impact on them around a bit. If, on the other hand, you just cut taxes for the lower paid, you have pretty much guaranteed it, so long as you can find the savings elsewhere (firing a few of the more over-paid bureaucrats for example).

if you make ordinarily cash-strapped bodies like Birkbeck and KCL pay higher rates for their cleaners, they may end up paying for less cleaning than they otherwise would choose to. Or expand their premises/projects at a slower rate, or have shorter opening hours in various departments, to prevent too much work requiring cleaning from happening. That would have an unfortunate impact on the staff and students

…in the short term. In the long term, it would encourage more academics and students to relocate outside London to regions where the cost of living is lower, which would be good for all concerned.

(this is also why subsidised housing for ‘key workers’ should be abolished – rather, public sector employers should be forced to pay their staff the appropriate rate *in actual money* to afford accommodation. Again, this would encourage the relocation of public sector work out of London, which would be a Good Thing)

John, that would be fine but you may run up against other restrictive practices that way, like planning restrictions. And if you did abolish the extra government investment in London as you suggest, there would be a greater tendency towards a more optimal use of resources outside London anyway, without the need to introduce living wage restrictions. I’m all up for alternatives to London having recently escaped the metropolis myself.


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