Workers are holding the PM's feet to the fire, after Johnson told MPs that all departments should pay the London Living Wage.
Unions are demanding that the Prime Minister makes good on a commitment to Parliament that government departments and contractors should pay the living wage.
Tens of thousands employees of government departments and contractors, in London and the rest of the UK are paid less than the living wage.
The workers include many PCS union members who work for outsourcing contractors ISS and Aramark at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They are currently taking indefinite strike action over demands which include payment of the Living Wage Foundation-set London Living Wage, which currently stands at £10.55 per hour.
The government-set National Minimum Wage – rebranded the ‘National Living Wage’ by the Conservatives – is just £7.83, which campaigners say is not enough to live on in the capital.
On 25 July 2019 the Prime Minister was asked in the House of Commons by Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, if he would commit that every single entry-level worker and cleaner in Whitehall would be paid the living wage. He responded:
“The answer is yes. I was very proud when I was running London that we massively expanded the living wage. We made sure that it was paid not just by Greater London Authority bodies but by their contractors as well, and that is what we should be doing.”
PCS have now written to the Prime Minister asking him to honour his promise to pay the living wage.
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS said:
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to the living wage for members working in government departments and their contractors, but our low paid members now need action not words.”
The union have urged Johnson to “intervene with the Treasury and government departments and ensure that they become living wage employers.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said:
“In many instances, there is a chasm between what prime minister Boris Johnston says and what actually happens. At present, he seems obsessed on giving tax cuts to higher earners between £50,000 – £80,000, when it is the low paid that have been suffering from wage stagnation for the last decade.
“In a recent television interview, Johnston struggled to remember what the actual rate was for the Living Wage, which does not inspire confidence now that he has reached 10 Downing Street.
“Everyone in work should receive at least £10 an hour as the best way to ward off poverty pay and raise living standards for millions of low paid workers – and Boris Johnson should implement that figure in law as a matter of urgency and economic necessity.”
PCS are asking people to support the strikers by emailing the new Secretary of State for BEIS, Andrea Leadsom MP, asking her to intervene.
And more unions have joined the calls since the call was published.
UNISON head of policy Sampson Low said:
“The living wage helps to prevent in-work poverty and exploitation, by paying staff enough to live decently and provide for their families. Trapping workers in low-paid employment can have far reaching and devastating consequences.
“It’s disgraceful the government is knowingly paying less than people need to survive. Boris Johnson must act immediately to correct this injustice.“
A BEIS spokesperson told LFF:
“We value all of our staff at BEIS and our priority is to ensure they receive a fair wage for their hard work, whether directly employed or working for our contractors.”
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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