The Living Wage In Cambridge

17:36 Monday 29th October 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Employers in Cambridge are being encouraged to pay their staff at least £7.20 an hour, after the City Council voted to bring in what’s called The Living Wage. Councillors unanimously agreed to implement the higher rate, rather than the statutory National Minimum Wage, which is £6.19. .. Liz Brennan of the Unison union in Cambridge gave her reaction to the City Council decision.
LIZ BRENNAN: They’ve agreed to pay The Living Wage for permanent employees, and they’ve also agreed to look at paying The Living Wage as part of next year’s budget process for temporary and agency staff. They’re also looking into paying The Living Wage to contractors that the Council uses. The Living Wage is a nationally agreed figure which is above the Minimum Wage, and for outside London it’s £7.20 an hour. And it’s calculated independently every year, and it’s sufficient to allow a worker to provide their family with the essentials of life. So it’s above the Minimum Wage. It’s very important. In times of austerity people cut back on their spending, which isn’t good for the local economy. Obviously they suffer, and their families suffer, as a result of low wages. People on low wages also suffer stress and ill-health more than the average population. So to have a decent living wage is a really good step forward. And we hope it’s a stepping stone to be rolled out to other employees in the city.
CHRIS MANN: What difference will this make to people’s lives who are getting it?
LIZ BRENNAN: Well we hope that people will benefit from it. There’ll be less stress. They will not be worrying about how to make ends meet so much. Hopefully less sickness. So the employer will benefit as a result of paying a Living Wage, as well as the actual staff getting The Living Wage.
CHRIS MANN: This is Cambridge City Council of course. Are there others in the area that you think might follow suit?
LIZ BRENNAN: We do hope that other councils will follow suit. There are several other councils that currently do pay The Living Wage, Norwich being one, Oxford City being one. So hopefully it is an idea that will spread.
CHRIS MANN: And how do you persuade them of that?
LIZ BRENNAN: By meeting with them, giving them examples of where it’s worked in other places, and now we can use the example of Cambridge City. And it’s a moral argument really, that we’re asking employers to buy into. It’s good all round.
CHRIS MANN: Times are hard. If companies are listening to this, why would they be persuaded to give more money to their employees, when it’s difficult for them to make ends meet full stop?
LIZ BRENNAN: It’s a voluntary agreement. It is down to individual companies to look at their own finances. But we hope it’s a good value for money measure. It’s investing in staff. It will hopefully cut down on re-recruitment costs, because people are less likely to move to another company that pays a little bit more, which people are tempted to do when times are hard. It builds in staff that will stay for the organisation, and continue to benefit from the skills that they have.
CHRIS MANN: Liz Brennan there, of the Unison union in Cambridge.