Since 2015 a group of Lancaster Quakers have led a campaign to encourage all parts of Britain Yearly Meeting to pay a wage that their employees can live on the Real Living Wage.
Whilst we welcome the annual rises in the minimum and national living wages, they fall short of the Real Living Wage; differentiate between those over and under 25 and make no allowance for living and working in London.
The Real Living Wages reflect the cost of living in and out of London and apply to all over 18. The rates are independently recalculated each year for November and are available on The Living Wage Foundation’s website www.livingwage.org.uk
Our message is simple: a living wage should pay enough to live on.
Why is Lancaster Meeting leading this campaign?
One of our Members attended the ‘Food banks are Not Enough Quaker Conference’ in Birmingham on 29 November 2014. The information given really spoke to her and she felt strongly led to do something practical when she got back to Lancaster. Lancaster Meeting supported the idea of action initially witnessing to raise awareness in the city to the fact that none of the large retailers pay the Real Living Wage and celebrating organisations in the area that do pay it. Engaging with people and listening to their personal stories helped us to understand the relevance of our campaigning and the urgency needed to challenge the low wage economy we live in.
In work poverty is of particular concern in a society that requires people to work, it is wrong that work does not provide sufficient income for people to live without the constant stress of juggling basic bills for food, rent, fuel, transport and clothing and recourse to using food banks. The national minimum wage, whilst to be applauded for giving women equality of pay and setting a base line, is being misused by many employers. It traps people in inescapable low paid work and drives them into debt. They cannot afford to take time out to retrain to achieve better paid work. For those on low pay
work does NOT provide a way out of poverty and they do not feel valued.
Over 4million children now live in poverty in the fifth largest economy in the world. They are without the basic necessities of life, warm homes, sufficient nutrition and a reliable roof over their heads. This kind of childhood deprivation affects people for the rest of their lives leaving its mark on health and wellbeing.
To begin to alleviate poverty in the UK one of the measures we must work towards is that the ‘national living wage’ is truly a Living Wage, based on what households need to have an acceptable minimum standard of living.
We know that payment of the Real Living Wage will not transform lives but it would go some way to help relieve the stress experienced in trying to make ends meet and would give to those on low pay a sense that they are valued. It would be just one thread in transforming a complex low wage economy. We believe that change in one part of the economy will affect the system in ways that at this stage we have no idea about.
We must ensure that all our employees are paid a Real Living Wage, in our Meeting Houses, Quaker Schools, Quaker centres and Care facilities run by Quaker Trusts. A good start has been made but there is much more to be done.
Do contact us if you want further information.
Lancaster Meeting Quaker Living Wage Group
Ann Morgan, Caro Kelly, Elizabeth Roberts, Phil Chandler, Philip Coughlan, Roisin Brennan, Tom Williamson
The Meeting House
Meeting House Lane