The living wage campaign is a powerful illustration of the type of change a one nation Labour government can achieve. A campaign that began in the east end of London, it is now a national movement, with communities coming together to confront low pay. It’s a movement which is about helping those at the bottom financially.
But it is also about individual dignity and family life. By offering a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work and allowing workers to spend another few hours at home with their family, the campaign is a powerful symbol of the fairer economy and society the next Labour government can build.
Even from opposition, Labour is leading the way with over 80 Labour councils committed to paying their staff the living wage. From Blackpool to Birmingham, Preston to Plymouth, Labour councils across the country are making the tough decisions in the midst of the Coalition’s swathing cuts to confront the scandal of in-work poverty.
Unlike the Coalition, we are not simply crossing our fingers and offering warm words about the living wage campaign. We are looking at how the next Labour government could help spread the living wage through procurement policies and looking at the possibility of setting up ‘living wage zones’ in which employers could be offered transitional help as they move from paying the minimum to a living wage. Another idea being considered is to oblige large employers to make public the proportion of employees on their books who are paid at a rate below the living wage.
The minimum wage was one Labour’s proudest achievements and a great example of a reforming and radical Labour government in action. But it should not be the summit of our ambition. One nation Labour will support the living wage campaign, helping those at the bottom who are being cruelly forgotten by the Coalition.