Campaign for £7.20 Living Wage Criticised
Businesses and their representatives have criticised a campaign by FairPensions which is calling on businesses to pay their lowest-paid employees a “living wage” of at least £7.85 an hour in London and £7.20 an hour elsewhere.
The campaigning group, made up of UK and US religious groups and philanthropists, has written to chief executives of the UK’s top 100 companies to request they pay staff a “Living Wage” so employees can “meet their basic needs”. The campaign, which has been running for ten years, is backed by Unison and Unite.
Forum of Private Business (FPB) spokesman, Chris Gorman, said:
“The minimum wage has gone from £3.60 an hour when introduced in 1999 to £5.93 an hour now — almost 65% in a decade — and it’s rising to more than £6 in October [£6.08]. Most of our members would say that is indeed sufficient as a starting point for employees’ pay — especially given their own struggles to stay afloat in the current economic climate.”
“The motives behind the living wage campaign may be noble, but addressing unemployment is a much more pressing priority, and one on which business-owners and workers can agree on. There are lots of people who would be glad just to have a job, irrespective of the salary.”
Dawn Whiteley, chief executive of the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies, noted:
“Finances are tight for many start ups and small-business owners, who often themselves have to survive on less than the campaign’s suggested hourly rate until their business develops.”
Fearing its implications, small businesses have also been critical. Maggie Langley, founder of Whitstable-based virtual-assistant service OfficeHounds, said:
“At a time when the country desperately needs private firms to create more jobs, it’s not the right moment to suggest increasing wages. If we want small firms to create more jobs, we must support them.”
If the FairPensions campaign was successful and more widely adopted, Langley believes it could force more companies to outsource…
“…because it’s less of a commitment and gives more value for money. In an ideal world, we’d all earn more than a living wage. Do I think £6.08 an hour is a fair wage? It is when the alternative is unemployment.”