Campaigning for a Living Wage

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2015 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2015

Conference condemns the continued attacks on the funding of public services and the impact of the poor pay awards for staff in the public sector.

Our members’ wages have decreased in real terms and public sector pay no longer leads the way.

Many employers within the public sector are now employed on rates less than the Living Wage. Much independent research has been conducted to highlight the benefits of implementing a Living Wage with increased morale of employees and a drop in absenteeism.

By employers paying a Living Wage it affords people to provide for themselves and their families.

Recipients of a Living Wage – a single-level hourly-rate (aside from the London Living Wage rate) – would also no longer be subject to the disgraceful situation of legalised discrimination on grounds of age in the National Minimum Wage and apprentices would no longer be subject to such a low hourly rate.

Conference notes the major campaign being waged by the BFAWU (Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union) within the national fast food takeaway companies, in partnership with the Fast Food Rights Campaign and Youth Fight For Jobs. The main thrust of this campaign is to recruit and organise young people into trade unions around the demand for a £10 per hour Living Wage.

Conference also notes that the GMB National Conference 2014 agreed to campaign for a £10 ph Living Wage in the security industry.

During 2014 UNISON members in Local Government (those covered by the NJC) engaged in a major dispute over poverty pay levels and the demand for a £1 per hour increase in wages. Conference recognises that, even if this claim had been met in full, thousands of Local Government workers would still only just be receiving the Outer London Living Wage of £7.65 per hour.

In 2014 UNISON members in the Health Service Group also engaged in a key campaign to raise members’ pay to a fair level and to eradicate poverty pay.

These pay claims took place against the backdrop of UNISON’s 2014 evidence to the Low Pay Commission, which demanded a stepped increase in the National Minimum Wage to bring it in line with the Living Wage.

We can look across the ocean to the USA for inspiration. The 15Now mass movement in Seattle has won legislation which provides for a minimum wage of $15 per hour. All across America 15Now groups are being established and are growing steadily. Conference applauds this initiative.

Conference believes that we need to raise the sights of members as to what is possible and look towards a Living Wage for all which prevents workers falling into poverty.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Support branches in working with employers to get them to adopt the Living Wage and become a Living Wage employer;

2)Urge the UNISON Labour Link to take up this issue at all levels of the Labour Party;

3)Provide guidance and campaign materials to support branches in campaigning for the Living Wage;

4)Ensure that any procurement agreements incorporate the Living Wage, as achieved by UNISON Scotland in the Scottish Procurement Bill;

5)Campaign to have a legally-enforceable Living Wage enshrined in legislation;

6)Support current initiatives in the UK campaigning for a £10 per hour minimum wage, send solidarity greetings to the BFAWU in support of their campaign ‘Fast Food Rights and to the 15Now campaign in Seattle;

7)Campaign with the TUC, with other trade unions and alongside other appropriate campaigning organisations in building a united push toward minimum pay rates of £10 per hour and utilise the opportunities in some industrial sectors for quicker progress in raising the living standards of the lowest paid through both collective bargaining and the National Minimum Wage. Whilst doing so, always seeking appropriate pay rises higher up grading scales to maintain equality proofed pay systems based on equal pay for work of equal value.