Living Wage

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2016 Community Service Group Conference
6 November 2015

Conference notes and applauds the role UNISON has played, and continues to play, in the campaign for a Living Wage.

Around 4.8 million people, 20% of the working population, are paid less than a Living Wage – the hourly rate set by the Living Wage Foundation calculated according to the actual cost of living, and not the rate announced in the opportunistic rebranding of the minimum wage by the Government earlier this year.

The case for a real Living Wage is unquestionable. Independent studies have shown that more than 80 percent of employers believe that the Living Wage has enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, 66% reported a significant impact on recruitment and retention within their organisation, while in workplaces where the Living Wage has been introduced absenteeism has fallen by 25%. A real Living Wage also benefits the economy as a whole, by easing the pressure on the public purse to subsidise poverty wages (currently to the tune of £3.6bn a year, including £1.1bn in means-tested benefits) and by putting more spending money in the pockets of low-paid workers.

Conference notes that the number of workers in the community and voluntary sector paid less than a Living Wage is significantly higher than the national average, and low pay remains the scourge of the sector. Conference also notes that young workers are statistically more likely to be paid less than a Living Wage, and that this has a resonance given the increasing number of young workers being employed by third sector social care employers.

Conference welcomes the growing tendency for local authorities and other public funders to ‘encourage’ or ‘expect’ providers to pay the Living Wage, but has some sympathy for the argument, like the one made by the Coalition of Care Providers in Scotland, that while there are progressive employers looking to meet the Living Wage, ‘the contract value calibrated against the volume of care hours to be delivered indicates that this would be difficult or impossible to achieve’.

Conference calls on the Community SGE to continue to look at ways of mapping the sector and gathering data on the Living Wage with a view to stepping up campaigning, organising and recruitment around the issue. Conference also calls on the SGE to make representations to ensure that the union’s general campaigning around the Living Wage gives due prominence to its significance in the community and voluntary sector.