Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Living Wage, Premiership football and the Church of England

So there has been a little bit of a hoo-ha lately about football clubs in the Premier league not paying the Living Wage. The Premier League has just secured its biggest TV deal in its history of £5.14 billion pounds. This represents a 70 per cent increase in their TV income.

The chief executive of  the Premier League in England, Richard Scudamore, who has been in the job since 1999, and who we can assume is paid rather better than the Living Wage, has come out with some rather memorable comments. One of his remarks was that it is not the clubs' responsibility to pay the living wage, is he implying that although the Premier League is awash with money they have no moral responsibility to their employees who are not on thousands and thousands of pounds a week? He has also gone on record as saying that "the Premier League is not a charity", you couldn't make this stuff up!

It should be noted here that Chelsea FC was the first Premier League club to pay the Living Wage, West Ham United followed suit in February this year. Luton Town became the first Football League club to adopt this, shortly after Chelsea took their step in December of last year.

What interests me more though is a report that came out yesterday from the Trades Union Congress (TUC). This report shows that one in five, (20%) of jobs overall in the UK pay less than the living wage! Monday 16 February until Sunday 1 March the TUC have named Fair Pay Fortnight. Currently the Living Wage is £9.15 for London and £7.85 for the rest of the UK

Among those who are not paying the Living Wage is the Church of England no less. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby admitted that this was an embarrassment. His own cathedral in Canterbury is guilty of this, currently advertising kiosk assistant jobs paying more than a pound an hour less than the National Minimum Wage. More than two and a half years ago the church's General Synod voted almost unanimously to pay its staff the Living Wage, maybe they got distracted by loftier matters? Clearly the Church of England are not the only culprits here as the TUC have indicated in their report, This was one of the things that Frances O'Grady (the General Secretary of the TUC) had to say:

 “Extending the living wage is a vital step towards tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty across Britain." Ms O'Grady goes further:

“Working families have experienced the biggest squeeze on their living standards since Victorian times, and these living wage figures show that women are disproportionately affected. Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom, and the government’s mantra about ‘making work pay’ is completely out of touch with reality."

This is what Rachel Reeves who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had to say to the Huffington Post:  "It makes good business sense. Thanks to the efforts of campaigners, over a thousand companies now pay the living wage, including 21 FTSE 100 companies - big brands like Barclays, Aviva and ITV."

"By paying the living wage their staff are afforded the dignity that should come with a days' work." 

An update:

I read in last night's Evening Standard that nearly 100 000 social care workers are paid less than the Living Wage. This stems from a report conducted by the Resolution Foundation who are described as an independent think tank concerned with the living standards for low to middle income families. This study found that the typical wage for a care job paid £8.00 an hour during 2013 - 2014. The London living wage during that period went up from £8.55 to £8.80 and is now £9.15.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Upsides and downsides of living in the night shelter

Living in a night shelter is no picnic. You are probably not in the most robust place, mentally when you arrive. You have to immediately get used to mixing with twenty five strangers, eating your meals with them, at night you have to accustom yourself to sharing the room where you sleep with them. The numbers you share the room with at night varies, women are partitioned off from the men and depending on the numbers and space available some of the people are taxied off to sleep in other churches.

There are some huge upsides:

  • you are warm and dry and inside.
  • you have a hot meal in the evening.
  • you have a breakfast in the morning, cooked if you want it.
  • you have access to clean clothes should you be short of them.
So what are the drawbacks?

  • they kick you out at eight o'clock in the morning. This is so the church can get on with all the other things it usually does. (there are very few free places open at eight o'clock in the morning that are warm and dry) A cup of tea costs 80p in Hackney and the libraries don't open until nine. Some people just head for the nearest bookie.
  • There tends to be a lot of travelling about - to the different churches and to where you spend your day. Almost everyone walks everywhere. 
Please don't get me wrong, everyone I have spoken to is grateful for all the help and the shelter that they get. The service they get is excellent, well thought through, highly organised, caring and sympathetic. We all know that we are lucky and that there is a waiting list to get on the scheme.

One observation I do have is that it is the churches that provide this service, this need is met by churches; housing the needy and the poor, those who are down on their luck. This has been the case for hundreds of years.

David Cameron, when he came to power, banged on about the Big Society, it was one of his buzz phrases. Surely he must have known that it was there all along?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

My new found shabbiness

Three and a half weeks ago I lost my place to live in a hostel for the homeless in North East London. I was given an hour to gather what could, I left carrying three small bags and the clothes I stood up in.

I've had a lot of adjustments to make since then, I spent some time sofa surfing and now I'm part of the set up at Hackney Winter Night Shelter, This is where I have been for a little over two weeks. A whole new bunch of people to get to know/get used to. There are twenty five of us in total but the personnel change here and there as two or three have moved on. The big adjustment has been no peace and quiet, nowhere to sit and gawp out of the window for twenty minutes doing nothing at all.

Since then I have acquired one or two other bits and pieces; shoes, a coat, tee shirt. I still feel like a tramp. I seem to be dressed in an odd assortment of ill-fitting clothes all of the time, every day. Up until a few days ago I was shuffling around in a pair of boots that were two sizes too big. The jeans I'm currently wearing are baggy and the waist size is four inches bigger than I would ordinarily wear.

Not too much to complain about, it is just that I am not usually this scruffy!