This is Living Wage Week and the Living Wage Foundation has announced an increase in the real living wage rate to £9.50 (£10.85 in London).
The good news is that approximately 250,000 low-paid workers can expect a much-needed pay rise from today.
But we mustn’t forget that the real living wage is voluntary, so the bad news is that many others – many of them putting their own health on the line fighting COVID-19 – will be less fortunate and will continue to live on poverty pay.
Care staff will also lose out despite supporting the most vulnerable – our loved ones in the most need – throughout the pandemic.
The increase also means thousands of the lowest-paid health workers employed by the NHS at the heart of the fight against COVID – cleaners, domestics, porters, security staff and drivers – will no longer earn a living wage as they are employed by private contractors, stuck on the national minimum wage.
Our union has a proud tradition of fighting poverty pay. UNISON was the first union to back a statutory national minimum wage, though we recognised early on that it wasn’t a living wage.
In fact the whole living wage movement was driven in the early days of this century by this union, its branches and its activists. And your union has never been afraid to shame employers and take industrial action to fight poverty pay.
The fight for proper pay goes through this union like a stick of rock. It informs everything we do, including our current No Going Back to Normal campaign.
Now more than ever before, as our members fight coronavirus, there is a need – an absolute requirement – for the government to pay them properly, justly and fairly.
You cannot praise public service workers for keeping our communities going, for saving lives, while simultaneously expecting the same people to survive on poverty pay.
You cannot clap for our carers one minute and deny them a fair and just pay rise the next. They are not mutually compatible. They do not go together. And the public agrees with us.
If you make a habit of thanking people for saving the nation you need to back up your words with deeds. The clock is ticking to right this wrong and your union will continue to fight on your behalf.
No more poverty pay. No more going back to normal.