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Labour backs ‘living wage’

Labour leader Ed Miliband is to make the ‘living wage’ a key feature of the party’s platform at the next general election.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has announced the new living wage as £7.45, a 25p increase. It is more than £1 an hour in London, at £8.55, due to the high costs of living in the capital.

The JRF chief executive, Julia Unwin, announcing the new rate at an event in York today, said: “A living wage is good for business, for the individual and for society. Consequently, it is entirely right that it enjoys cross-party political support as well as support from major employers. I am delighted to confirm that, as an employer, from 2013, we will pay a living wage to all of our colleagues, extending it to around 100 of our lowest paid who are carrying out important work as care assistants, cleaners and catering workers. I would urge more employers to make a commitment to paying a living wage.”

The living wage is seen as a rate of pay allowing families the “basis of a decent life”, according to a joint article by Labour’s David Miliband and Unison’s Dave Prentis in the Observer newspaper.

Ed Miliband says the living wage is an idea “whose time has come”, and it has been reported that he is to say: “The next step is to help more people, including workers in the private sector, have the dignity of earning a living wage. This is one way we can begin building a One Nation economy where prosperity is fairly shared, because it is only by coming together that we can succeed as a country.

“We're looking at a series of ideas as part of Labour's policy review. It's not about making spending commitments, it's about learning from our experience in local government and listening to businesses who tell us how paying the living wage can be the right thing for their business.”

Campaigners for the living wage say that it boosts local economies, as people spend more money locally.

Among those already paying it or implementing it are many local authorities, 19 of whom are accredited as ‘living wage employers’, the Scottish Government, the Greater London Authority, government departments, major corporate businesses like Barclays and KPMG, and retailers like Lush.

The rate of pay for people on the living wage is significantly above the minimum wage, which is £6.19 for people over 21.

But Labour has rejected plans to impose the living wage statutorily if it wins office, and instead wants employers to realise the benefits for themselves. Other ideas include public bodies making it a condition of contracts that private sector bidders pay their own staff the living wage.

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(Image of Ed Miliband copyright Plashing Vole, used here under a Creative Commons licence. Some rights reserved.)


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