AMs call for more employers to pay a real living wage

(Title Image: Personnel Today)

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Notes the report by Cardiff Business School, ‘The Living Wage Employer Experience’.
  • Welcomes the action taken by 174 employers across the public, private and third sectors in Wales to pay their employees the real living wage.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to identify measures to support more employers in the public, private and third sectors to adopt the living wage and consider strengthening the Code of Practice on Ethical Employment in Supply Chains in relation to the real living wage.

Real Living Wage

Opening the debate, Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) said that while the UK Government’s national living wage was £7.83-per-hour, the real living wage – which properly meets the cost of living – was £9-per-hour outside London. She was pleased the Welsh Government and NHS have been accredited living wage employers since 2015.

“I’d like to see the Welsh Government move to change the commitments expected of employers securing grants and contracts from ‘considering’ paying at least the real living wage to a real commitment….This will require support and resources in order for this to be achieved both within the Welsh Government and external agencies. I think that, in Scotland, we can see lessons learnt about the positive impact of this investment.”
– Jane Hutt AM

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said there were a number of tangible benefits to employers, government and the wider economy by paying a real living wage, including higher tax take, savings on benefits, a closure of the gender pay gap (as women are more likely to work in part-time and lower-paid jobs) and immeasurable improvements to quality of life and workplace morale.

Women’s experiences

“Like, I’m sure, many in this Chamber, I feel very angry that so many of our fellow citizens work so very, very hard and are still poor. I object to people’s taxes being used to subsidise bad employers who ought to be able to pay wages without people working full-time having to depend on benefits. And, of course, it is particularly women—often women working a number of part-time jobs—who are affected by low wages, and it is on women’s experience that I particularly want to focus today.”
– Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)

Helen said it was clear the living wage has been a success but, touching on what others had raised, women make up a greater proportion of part-time workers and they face a number of additional barriers such as maternity discrimination. Low wages, in general, can only be tackled when the gender pay gap is tackled.

“I do want to draw the Chamber’s attention to the Federation of Small Businesses’s report that was produced and launched today, ‘A Skilful Wales’, in which they also highlight that micro firms are also more likely, by 53 per cent, to be using and paying the real living wage than firms employing more than 10 people. So, there is a good picture; it’s a complex picture, but there is a good picture in the foundational sector.”
– Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly)

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said the argument has come a long way when the Conservatives – who originally opposed the minimum wage – have expanded upon it. Nonetheless, there were acute problems in Wales, with a higher proportion of people working in sectors blighted by low pay such as hospitality, catering, retail and leisure.

“But I think paying the real living wage is so important to those who are in low-paid work, because it can be the difference between making ends meet and going under. I think we all know the terrible stress that so many families are under at the moment. Particularly, we see people in our surgeries, and the austerity has hit so many families so hard.”
– Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North)

“More equal societies are more happy societies”

Replying on behalf of the government, Economy & Infrastructure Secretary Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said AMs made a powerful and compelling case for the living wage.

“I think it’s fair to say that there is ample evidence now in existence to show that more equal societies are most certainly more happy societies, more contented societies, and that employers that pay well tend to achieve higher productivity rates. And within the foundational economy, as we’ve heard, there is a particular issue with low wages, but it’s also in the foundational economy that we see a higher proportion of women in employment, which, in turn, contributes to the gender pay gap that we tragically have in our society and must get to grips with.”
– Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates

He believed the time was right to pursue a radical policy in the economic contract with unemployment levels at record lows. There’s already a commitment by the Welsh Government to review its ethical clauses in contracts with businesses with the intention of rolling it out amongst all public, private and third sector organisations in receipt of Welsh Government support.

The motion was unanimously approved.

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