Waging a campaign

Islington employers come together to tackle low pay by Mariam Chaudhri

Islington Town Hall (Credit :WikiCommons)
Islington Town Hall (Credit: WikiCommons)

Islington Council has joined together with other local employers in a bid to make Islington the first ‘Living Wage’ borough in North London. The council is one of 17 employers, including City University and EC1- based architecture firm AHMM to be signed up to a plan to ensure that 3,000 more workers in the borough receive the London Living Wage (currently £10.85 an hour) by 2024. These figures are based on doubling the number of Living Wage accredited employers in the borough.

 “By becoming North London’s first Living Wage Borough, we can help bring the huge benefits of the London Living Wage to workers and employers alike, and lift local people out of poverty,” said Cllr Asima Shaikh, executive member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs. 

AHMM has contributed to the Islington Living Wage Action Group by providing a useful perspective on becoming a Living Wage employer and why it is beneficial for local communities. 

“Issues around the role of local businesses in communities as well as fair employment practices have come to the fore during this time,” said Anna Bazeley, marketing director for AHMM. “We believe the Living Wage Place initiative will play an important role in helping local communities to recover”. The architectural practice has been a Living Wage employer since 2015.

Recent data from the Living Wage Foundation shows that sectors such as accommodation, retail and hospitality are most likely to struggle to pay the Living Wage. Islington council has said it will initiate a series of conversations with these sectors and the Foundation to explore how it can support more employers to pay the Living Wage.  

While the main aim of the scheme is to “make Islington a fairer borough, where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential and enjoy a good quality of life”, the council also emphasises that higher pay will mean that residents and people who work in the borough will have more money to spend on local businesses. It hopes to work with neighbouring boroughs, including Camden, Haringey and Hackney, as approximately 80 percent of Islington’s working age residents work outside the borough. 

A council initiative is to launch an employment portal to make it easier for residents to apply for jobs and a programme called LIFT in partnership with Hackney, Camden and Tower Hamlets Councils which will increase access to jobs for local residents. The council’s business support team has given out £65m in grants to 4,000 local businesses to support them through the pandemic. Other factors may also cause wages to rise, including labour shortages, which may well change with the ending of the Furlough scheme on 30 September.

The British Chambers of Commerce recently showed that 70 per cent of businesses had struggled to hire staff in the three months leading to June. Qualms about the return to work may also have an effect and workplace analytics firm Locatee found that just 17 of respondents actively want a full-time return to the office, also potentially incentivising employers to raise wages.