States lead the way by backing living wage
ALL companies who work with the States of Jersey will have to pay their staff the ‘living wage’ as part of a government commitment to lead the way as a good employer, the Chief Minister has announced.
Later this month the States is due to debate a proposition from Deputy Geoff Southern calling for the States Employment Board to seek accreditation as a living wage employer. It is understood that ministers will now accept that proposition in full.
Deputy Southern described the announcement as a ‘good day for low paid workers’ and said he thinks it will pave the way for the living wage – which at last year’s figure of £9.75 an hour was more than £2 above the minimum wage – to become the standard.
‘This is serious progress for everybody,’ he said. ‘And with the States leading the way I can see the living wage taking over being the standard instead of the minimum wage.’
Under his proposal all contractors working with the States will be required to pay their staff a living wage, which differs from place to place and is a rate of pay that is deemed high enough for employees to maintain a reasonable standard of living in their community.
Last week the head of the UK campaign group The Living Wage Foundation visited Jersey to speak at an event alongside Deputy Andrew Lewis, a long-time campaigner for the living wage in Jersey.
This week, Chief Minister Ian Gorst used his opening speech at the Brighter Futures charity conference to announce that the States would be adopting the living wage as promoted by the Catholic development organisation Caritas.
Announcing the decision, Senator Gorst said: ‘We already pay our own staff good salaries but we will now ensure that our contractors do as well, including the cleaners and grounds staff that work regularly on our premises. We also plan to use our procurement processes to promote the Caritas Living Wage further afield, encouraging other Jersey organisations to sign up. It is right for us to lead by example.’
Jersey’s basic minimum wage is due to rise to £7.50 an hour in April. The UK living wage is currently £8.75 and £10.20 in London.
Deputy Andrew Lewis, who is a member of the Jersey Living Wage Advisory Council, welcomed the move and said the council accepted that employers would need time to adjust to the change.
‘The States is the biggest employer in the Island and they probably have more subcontractors than most other businesses. We understand that a number of their contractors don’t pay the living wage at the moment.’
He added that consideration would now to be given to ways to prevent employers from paying staff the living wage for States work but reverting back to the minimum wage for other contracts.