Vanessa Conant, Rector of the Parish of Walthamstow, on why a Living Wage is essential for all workers
It’s nearly always a Saturday when the doorbell will ring and someone will ask for food or for help with gas or electricity, just enough to get through the weekend.
In my work as a parish priest, I regularly meet people who work long hours in challenging and demanding jobs but find it almost impossible to meet the costs of living in Waltham Forest, a situation which leads to exhaustion, stress, and anxiety.
Anecdotal accounts of low-paid work in the borough (and its impacts) are borne out by research – according to the charity, Trust for London, Waltham Forest has the highest percentage of jobs paying below the Living Wage anywhere in the capital, at 37 percent.
It’s why a campaign to double the number of London Living Wage employers in the borough has caught the imagination of our congregation at St Mary’s Walthamstow and is part of our work with Waltham Forest Citizens; an alliance of schools, colleges, mosques and churches who work together to pursue the ‘common good’. And it’s why we were overjoyed when two local businesses were recently accredited, marking their public commitment to paying a fair and sustainable wage for their employees.
At the end of September, Froth & Rind became the first business in Orford Road to sign up as a London Living Wage employer. They were the 17th business in Waltham Forest to sign up, joining the likes of Church Hill Nursery and Wild Card Brewery. As a parish, we too are Living Wage employers, committed to the scheme since the beginning of the Citizens UK campaign.
Our goal is to create the borough’s first London Living Wage Zone, with over half of the businesses in Walthamstow Village accredited as paying London Living Wage. Recent research from the Living Wage Foundation and the Smith Institute found that if a quarter of low-paid workers were paid the London Living Wage of £10.20, and £8.75 in the rest of the UK, in ten city regions, there would be enormous benefits.
This includes the Treasury benefiting from £350million in increased tax receipt spending and benefit savings and more than half-a-million workers securing an annual pay rise of £1,700. More than 93 percent of businesses who have accredited say that it has benefited their business, improved their reputation, and increased their staff retention rates.
Even more than the economic impacts, we know that paying the London Living Wage has huge benefits for employees and so for our wider community. The London Living Wage means that people aren’t anxious about covering the next bill, there is more time to spend with family or friends, and even the possibility of saving for unexpected expenditure.
The Living Wage can genuinely transform lives and make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of local residents. In May 2017, Waltham Forest Council also accredited as a Living Wage employer, one of only thirteen London boroughs to have signed up to the scheme. Waltham Forest Citizens is now working with the council to encourage more local businesses to sign up and, last week, co-hosted the borough’s first London Living Wage Breakfast!
As a church, we are committed to the flourishing of our community. The campaign for the London Living Wage in Waltham Forest is an expression of that same commitment. We believe that doubling the number of London Living Wage employers in Waltham Forest will lead to the flourishing of businesses and the flourishing of the people employed by them.
We hope that many will join us in sharing this vision and working to make it a reality.
To find out more about the London Living Wage campaign contact Daniel Mackintosh, senior organiser for Waltham Forest Citizens: