Guest Blog: James Hall - Action Research Project Manager, People and Work
The Real Living Wage – value for money
People and Work (a Welsh charity founded in 1984) has a moto: ‘Finding answers, making change possible’. We do social research and run action research projects in disadvantaged areas, seeking to tackle cyclical poverty at source. In the last couple of years, we have been involved with Citizens Cymru, a UK community organising network that helps local groups campaign and make change happen on a wide range of issues. We have helped with some of these campaigns in Wales. It was through them that we became aware of the real Living Wage, which is different to the ‘National Living Wage’ set by the Government as it is a voluntary rate that is independently calculated according to the cost of living. Citizens introduced us to the Living Wage Foundation.
As Project Manager, I am involved in hiring people to work with us to tackle poverty and social injustice. It was not long before the penny dropped! We shouldn’t be campaigning for social justice, including fair pay, if we didn’t nail our own colours to the mast and join the ever-increasing array of employers adopting this voluntary rate which provides a decent standard of living in modern society. I took a proposal to our Director who, in turn, put it to our Board of Trustees that given our commitment to social justice and individual wellbeing, paying the real Living Wage is the moral thing to do and makes good business sense too. The Board endorsed this view enthusiastically a couple of years ago and we joined the ranks of thousands who are proud to pay the real Living Wage.
Why bother? There are several reasons: We need to attract and retain the best talent to perform some challenging tasks in research and community life – a business case. We want to demonstrate to funders (public and private) that we practise what we preach about challenging poverty – a moral case. And we want to encourage our third sector colleagues to push back against the apparent ‘race to the bottom’ regarding wages (especially when taking public sector contracts) to win work – a case for justice. Many large public and private sector employers have become accredited by the Living Wage Foundation and are proud to tell the rest of us: we, a small charity (only eight staff) wanted to join the party for change!
Last year the Living Wage Foundation published the Low Pay in the Charity Sector report, which found that over 26% of charity workers in the UK earn less than the real Living Wage. Since the report was published, the Foundation has been working with charities, their employees, funders, commissioners and more, to explore what can be done. A short action plan will be published soon with a set of ideas that will hopefully help more charities to pay a real Living Wage.