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Islington continues to lead the fight against poverty pay

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Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about how Islington is leading the way as a Living Wage employer.

This Living Wage Week, the Living Wage flag is flying proudly on top of Islington Town Hall and Living Wage posters have gone up around the borough to signal once more Labour councillors’ commitment to tackling the scandal of poverty pay.

Islington Council was the first local authority in the UK to become accredited as a Living Wage employer, back in 2012. This was off the back of the Islington Fairness Commission, itself the first of now 24 Fairness Commissions around England, Scotland and Wales.

All of the council’s own staff are paid at least the London Living Wage and we have also convinced our contractors to sign up, with 98 per cent of contracted staff now being paid at least the Living Wage too.

We are still working hard to address the outstanding 2 per cent of contracted staff who don’t get the Living Wage, all of whom work in the vital yet nationally underfunded area of residential adult social care. With very long contracts, limited property availability, care homes shared with other councils and reticent providers, this is proving a tough nut to crack. We are coordinating London-wide efforts though to see what can be done.  

There are now 110 other accredited Living Wage employers in Islington, across the public, private and voluntary sectors. This is the third highest figure of any London borough. We have actively sought to persuade these employers to go Living Wage and we celebrate their achievement. Islington North MP and Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, visited one such local employer, Schools Offices Services, yesterday morning to hear from cleaners there about the difference the Living Wage has made to them.  

Islington was also the first council in the country to be recognised as a Living Wage Friendly Funder, building a Living Wage requirement into our £2.7 million per year core grant-giving programme, supporting small charities and community organisations in the area to pay a Living Wage too.

By way of shareholder activism, committee members representing the £1 billion Islington Pension Fund have turned up as investors at FTSE 100 companies’ AGMs to lobby, for instance, supermarkets and pharmaceutical companies to go Living Wage as well.

The real Living Wage is based on the actual cost of living, unlike the Tory Government’s sham version, and is administered nationally by the Living Wage Foundation. To mark the start of Living Wage Week, London’s Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the London Living Wage will rise by 35p to £9.75 an hour in 2017. This will be welcome news for many Islington workers living in the most expensive city in the UK.

Most London Labour councils are now also accredited Living Wage employers, which sadly cannot be said of our Tory counterparts who talk a good game on tackling working poverty but do not walk the walk. By offering civic leadership on the Living Wage, our council has helped to make Islington one of the boroughs in London with the lowest levels of in-work poverty.

There is still more work to be done though. Islington Labour will continue to lead by example. Some other big employers in the borough also need to step up to the plate. It isn’t good enough, for instance, that Arsenal’s contracted cleaners and caterers still do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on at the world’s sixth richest football club. 

 

Pictured: Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety

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