This week is Living Wage Week in the UK. It’s a time of celebration and action for a remarkable campaign, started by a group of church, faith and community leaders, trade unionists and cleaners in East London 15 years ago. The story is a wonderful testimony to the power of grassroots community organising – how conversations initiated in church halls and homes (civil society) have agitated and led government (state) and business leaders (market) into adopting the idea. I’ve written before about how I had the privilege in my previous appointment of being involved in the campaign for 8 years and observed first-hand how it transformed the life of families in my neighbourhood and congregation. Continue reading “‘…no holiness, but social holiness’: my journey with the Living Wage Campaign”
Today I’ll be celebrating a great victory with a plateful of meatballs. This afternoon I’m off to IKEA (a huge Swedish furniture chain-store) to buy some furniture for the house I’ve just moved into. I’ll be honest and admit I really dislike going to IKEA. I’m just not a shopping kind of guy. But today I go with a spring in my step because the CEO has announced they will be paying the Living Wage. Not the watered down version but the real one. When I step across the threshold I will do so with great pleasure and some pride because I’ve journeyed with Living Wage campaigners for the last 8 years. And today is a momentous occasion. Last month I snapped a selfie with Abdul Durrant, a cleaner from HSBC, who 12 years ago stood up in the shareholders meeting and challenged the CEO to pay the bank’s cleaners a living wage. He did not do this alone. Behind him was Citizens UK – at that time a fairly small alliance of unions, churches, mosques, synagogues and schools based in East London. Since then the campaign and Citizens UK has blossomed. The Living Wage Foundation has accredited over 1500 employers and ensured millions of pounds goes into the pockets of the UK’s lowest paid workers. The living wage has become a hot political topic and dominated the Chancellor’s recent budget statement. In our pamphlet, Marching Towards Justice, we relate our own living wage stories – how we identified it as a prophetic and just alternative to families forced into poverty by low wages; how we worked with poorly-paid members of our own congregations to fight for a living wage; and how we took inspiration from The Salvation Army’s living wage campaign of the 1890s in the match factory. The work goes on – look out for Salvation Army announcements later in the year. Today’s victory is so important because IKEA is the first national retailer to go living wage. Imagine what can happen if others go the same way – John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, WH Smith? Thousands of workers lifted out of poverty. Bring it on! And so, today I’ll eat IKEA meat balls with pride – I even promise not to whinge when I put the flat-packs together. Well done campaigners (every victory takes great persistance, patience and invention) and well done IKEA.