Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Hypocrisy of the Living Wage

Wage of the Living Dead

Apart from local government, Living Wage will never entirely escape London. It is only London Authorities, top FTSE companies and their haute suppliers that can offer what is, no-doubt from their point of view, a trivial top-up to appease slight quivers of discontent in the Capital’s labour market.

It’s easy to incorporate Living Wage into your corporate chaff when you pay your workforce above median income from the outset; and equally peasy to make slight adjustments when the cleaners starting banging on the door demanding the new base wage you forgot to tell them about.

KPMG, the company who released recent statistics on the Living Wage —and have been done for fraud, and sued countless times—, look forward

“to the day when the Living Wage brand is as widely known as the Fairtrade brand - and just as widely respected.”[1]

Brand? That’s quite telling when one of the main Living Wage Foundation partners sees Living Wage as a brand.

What’s also quite telling is the Living Wage Foundation accrediting companies, such as Deloitte[2] (owners of workfare profiteers Ingeus), who actively implement the Work Programme, the sanction regime and Mandatory Work Activity (workfare). Oversight? Unlikely.

Apologies to the campaigners who, over a decade ago, dreamt up the idea in its present form; and solidarity with recent struggles to improve waged lots from not very much to not v. much. But, Living Wage, up-ended from its grassroots, is now top-down Establishment ideology entangled in the hierarchies of party-political contest and dead-end policy:

“Just before the General Election, Citizens UK came to see me with a cleaner from the Treasury who wasn’t being paid the living wage. I thought then that if our common life was to mean anything, it should mean that this hard-working woman, who cleaned the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be paid at least the living wage.”[3]

The humility of the Labour leader is bumbling. Surely, if “our common life was to mean anything” it would mean wage parity, not wage tokenism.

The extent to which this Establishment ideology becomes doubly, hypocritically apparent is in the lauding of the co-opted Living Wage campaign by parties who continue to implement and/or support workfare, and the recent “no training no pay”[4] scandal over apprenticeships. Where is the Living Wage for these sections of the market?

In this blog’s neck of the woods, Liverpool City Council recently established the Liverpool Fairness Commission, a warm and fuzzy jumble of words championing a Living Wage in a future time:

“…where pay differentials and rewards are proportionate and reasonable to reflect work and responsibility and where everyone can receive a Living Wage.”[5]

The best Liverpool could probably manage is the adoption of a Living Wage by the City Council and a handful of ‘trusted’ suppliers. But how do you justify this to a ‘citizenry’ facing deep cuts to vital services that will, by Mayor Anderson’s own admission[6], kill people?

At the very least, Living Wage is an experiment in productivity: how much can be squeezed out of these fleshy bipeds for a few more quid? At most, “it is the right thing to do in order to help lift the working poor of London out of poverty”.[7] In reality, it’s a carrot to stick the working class with the only thing they have to give away: their labour.

[1] http://www.livingwage.org.uk/our-work (KPMG)
[2] http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=517
[3] http://www.labour.org.uk/ed-miliband-speech-on-the-living-wage
[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/no-training-and-no-pay-scandal-1415514
[5] http://liverpoolfairnesscommission.com/downloads/Fairness_charter.pdf  (Principle 7)
[6] http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/10/25/mayor-of-liverpool-promises-to-resign-if-60-000-people-want-him-to-100252-32099855/
[7] http://www.livingwage.org.uk/our-work (Trust for London)

No comments:

Post a Comment