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Updates from the Living Wage Foundation

Islington to become north London’s first Living Wage Borough

An alliance of prominent employers in Islington has today launched an Action Plan to make Islington North London’s first “Living Wage Borough”.

The group of seventeen public, voluntary and private sector employers, including Islington Council, Whittington Health, BDP, AHHM, City and London Metropolitan Universities, has committed to ambitious plans to double the number of Living Wage accredited employers and workers over the next 3 years. This will result in 3,000 more workers in Islington receiving the London Living Wage of £10.85 an hour by 2024.

The Living Wage is the UK’s only wage rate based on the cost of living. Accredited employers commit to pay workers a minimum of £10.85 in London, and £9.50 outside of London in order to cover their everyday needs.

There are now 221 Living Wage employers within Islington Borough. However, despite a significant growth in Living Wage employers over the past year, there are still 21,000 (12.6%) jobs in Islington that pay below the real Living Wage. The Action Group will work together to increase the number of Living Wage jobs in Islington by 30%.

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs, Islington Council, said:

“We’re determined to make Islington fairer, and to create a place where everyone has the same opportunity to reach their potential and enjoy a good quality of life.

“We know that the pandemic was difficult for everyone, but it was especially tough for people on low wages. As we begin the road to recovery, it is essential that we rebuild an economy that works for everyone. A fair wage for a hard day’s work is at the heart of a fairer Islington.

“We were the UK’s first Living Wage local authority, and this is an important next step in our journey to bring the huge benefits of the London Living Wage to Islington’s workers and employers alike. We’re delighted to be working with this group of local employers to pay the real Living Wage, and lift local people out of poverty.”

Whittington Health CEO, Siobhan Harrington, said:

“My colleagues have all worked unbelievably hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is simply the right thing to do to make this commitment that they can be safe in the knowledge that they will always receive a living wage for the incredible work that they do.”

Laura Gardiner, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said:

“The incredible challenges of the past year have been felt by thousands of workers and families, in Islington, London and the rest of the UK. Many have struggled to keep their heads above water. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see employers come together to drive the development of good jobs with a real Living Wage. If we are to recover from this crisis, we will need to see more boroughs, town and cities follow Islington’s leadership, and commit to provide workers with the security and stability of a real Living Wage.”

 

Employer case study

For over 30 years, After Noah has carved out a niche as one of the most original shopping experience in Islington. The shop on Upper Street has grown to cater for all tastes – selling toys, gifts, home wares, garden goods and new and vintage furniture – as well as running a busy restoration workshop, built on generations of family knowledge and skill. 

A key part of After Noah’s success has been the strength of its team.

As Islington celebrates its accreditation as a Living Wage Borough, we asked general manager, Simon Tarr, to tell us why After Noah is proud to be recognised as a living wage employer.  

“Our success stems from our staff. As the team has grown together, the business has gone from strength to strength. Our customers often tell us how the friendly and helpful service they get from the team is what keeps them coming back.  

That’s why we set the London Living wage as the minimum rate of pay for our staff, although many are paid more. If our team is going to go the extra mile, the least we can do is pay a wage that’s based on the real cost of living – and recognise the value our staff add to the business.”

How has After Noah benefitted from being a Living Wage employer?

“As good as it feels to pay our staff that bit more, it isn’t a selfless act. We invest in our team and many of them have stayed with us for years. Having a low turnover of staff, helps keep the team happy. That helps keep the customers happy, which makes the store successful. 

Beyond that, paying the Living Wage puts more money in our team’s pockets, and more money into the local economy as a result. Which is always a good thing.”

What would you say to other businesses in Islington that are thinking of becoming Living Wage employers? 

“Islington being recognised as a Living Wage Borough is a huge opportunity for the community. Hopefully many other local businesses will also see the benefits of the Living Wage too.

After all the uncertainty of the last 18 months, there’s never been a better time for Islington’s local businesses, big and small to come together to restore the high street as the heart of the community. 

Paying staff the living wage, and recognising the difference that every employee can make, is a great starting point for achieving that goal.”  

 

Worker case study

Since 2012 Islington Council, as a living wage employer, has committed to paying its staff, apprentices and contractors at least the London Living wage. This has meant better pay for many including cleaners, security guards, grounds staff and school caterers.  

Dionne Brooks is one of those Islington workers, who has seen how the Living Wage has helped her and the local community.  

Originally from Jamaica, Dionne moved to London in 2000, and was joined by members of her family a year later. After working as a carer for a number of years, Dionne changed careers in 2012, when she joined the facilities crew for the London 2012 Olympics, as a cleaning team leader.  

“It was an amazing experience to be part of such a large team and help make sure everything ran smoothly. Everyone looked after each other and we all felt valued for the work we did.”  

Dionne continued working as a cleaner across London before joining Islington Council in 2014, where she first noticed the difference the London Living wage can make.  

“London is an expensive place to live and it can be difficult to make end meets, especially with a family. But I was always brought up to work hard and so if I needed to, I’d work more than one job.  

Working with the council made huge difference to me. When you finish a day’s work and feel you’ve earned a proper wage, you want to go the extra mile and do the best you can.” 

Dionne isn’t the only one to benefit from her getting paid the Living Wage. In addition to being able to send money home to her family in Jamaica, and give money to local charities, Dionne is an avid cook and regularly prepares meals and snacks for co-workers and other members of the Islington community.   

“I love to cook and really want to get involved in a volunteering project where I can put my skills in the kitchen to good use for the community.”  

6th July 2021
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