Branches could be “pushing against an open door” in trying to persuade public sector employers to pay the living wage, UNISON says.
“They’re just waiting for us to ask them,” suggests Charlie Carruth, a regional officer with the union’s Yorkshire & Humberside region. “And that’s what branches should be doing. Make a living wage pay claim. Just ask.”
Mr Carruth’s optimism is based on the strides made by the union and others in turning Sheffield into a living wage city across public services, while also making inroads throughout the region.
Sheffield City Council is already a living wage employer and is committed to making all would-be contractors agree to the living wage in their contracts.
UNISON has made successful living wage claims to Sheffield University, the Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust, which has agreed to bring 2,000 staff up to the living wage from January 2015, as well as a clinical commissioning group in the city.
Other bodies, such as the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, are proving harder to crack. But in these cases UNISON is playing the long game, says Mr Carruth.
“Our strategy is to put living wage claims in across the board, backed up with statistics on pay and the cost of living. If we get a positive, then great. If not, we don’t go straight into battle, but build pressure by getting others to sign up.
“We’re trying to pick employers off strategically, keeping the pressure on.”
Elsewhere in the region, Rotherham NHS Trust, the Yorkshire NHS Trust and four CCGs across South Yorkshire have also agreed to pay the living wage.
UNISON learned from the cash-strapped Rotherham trust that although it couldn’t afford the living wage itself, when it approached its CCG the commissioners agreed to pay the difference – thus revealing another approach for the campaign.
“Any trust could do this,” says Mr Carruth.
“Employers are realising that they can do a lot of good and it’s not costing them a lot of money. Plus, it’s making them look good. It’’ a virtuous circle. And the momentum is building.”