Telco and Atkins intern Sanna_3

Today the Social Mobility Commission reports that the UK is “deeply elitist” and calls for a national effort to “break open” Britain’s elite, asking the government to tackle the culture of unpaid internships that disadvantage those too poor to work for nothing.

Citizens UK believes that offering work placements to all is just one way to tackle inequality of opportunity.

They are celebrating as it was today confirmed that the next cohort of five young people will be taking up the third set of internships being made available through its Olympic legacy programme with international engineering business Atkins.

Atkins, one of the world’s leading design, engineering and project management consultancies, was the official engineering design services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Emmanuel Gotora, Citizens UK organiser said:

“As a local community organisation we were introduced to Atkins by LOCOG. Our members were keen to see a lasting and meaningful legacy from the Olympic Games.

“Youth un-and-under employment is a big issue in East London, and with Atkins, we saw an opportunity to inspire our young people and give them an opportunity to experience work at a global company. Atkins saw the opportunity too, and agreed to give a number of young people an experience that would make a real difference to their futures.”

Together TELCO and Atkins have devised a three-month, London Living Wage paid internship programme. Since its inception in 2012, 16 young people have completed the programme, with six going on to secure full-time positions with Atkins and others going on to complete further study and one securing an alternative engineering internship in the NHS. All of the interns have the benefit of a three month period of experience with a reputable company on their CVs.

Sanna Shabir, a 19 year old from Leyton, who has recently completed the internship programme, said:

 “Last year I got my A Level results and they weren’t what I had hoped for. I was feeling pretty bleak about the future and unsure what to do.

“Thanks to the internship scheme with Atkins and East London Citizens I’ve got an exciting future. I completed the internship, negotiated an extension and now I’ve secured myself a full time apprenticeship with Atkins to become a Civil Engineer with the possibility of completing a sponsored degree in the future.

“The internship boosted my confidence, gave me experience of a career I hadn’t previously considered and has helped me realize the different career options that are out there. I have even re-taken the exams I wasn’t happy with.”

The internship programme combines work experience with employability work shops helping the young people with everything from CV writing to interview techniques and negotiation skills.

The partnership between Atkins and TELCO also sees young professionals from the business visit TELCO member schools to speak about their careers and introduce the world of engineering and design to students who may not have been aware of the opportunities engineering can offer.

Jilly Calder, a HR business partner at Atkins, said:

“Our engineering and design work played an important role in helping to regenerate an entire area of East London. However, the London 2012 legacy is as much about people as the infrastructure.

“We need a diverse workforce to come up with clever solutions to complex challenges for our clients. The internship programme with TELCO allows us to meet a group of young people whom we might not otherwise get to know. We share our knowledge, experience and expertise with the interns so they will hopefully be able to pursue a successful career in engineering. For Atkins, it is very important to maintain close links with those communities which welcomed us during the creation of the Olympic Park.”


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July 26 - pic 5

On Saturday 25th July the Liberal Jewish Synagogue played host to the New Citizens Organising Team as they launched their plan to resettle 1500 Syrian refugees in the UK.

A group of 55 faith and youth leaders, including Bishop Peter Selby, Senior Rabbi Alexandra Wright of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Danny Rich, Canon Steven Saxby of Saint Barnabas in Walthamstow and Imam Suliman Gani from the Croydon Mosque and Islamic Centre, came together to plan an 18 month strategy leading up to the 2015 national election. The strategy involves large-scale migrant voter registration, interfaith teams to support the resettlement of refugees in local areas, and increasing the number of refugees settled in the UK from 750 to 1500 per year. Britain, the sixth richest country in the world, has resettled only 48 Syrians in 2014 – not enough people to fill a double decker bus. Jordan, the world’s 89th richest country, has taken 1.2 million!

This is not the first time Citizens UK and faith leaders have joined forces to change the experiences of migrants in this country. The 2010 Citizens UK ‘Sanctuary Pledge’ to end child detention was supported by the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches, The Muslim Council of Britain, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbi.

The campaign culminated at a Citizens UK assembly of 2,500 people just prior to the 2010 General Election, where David Cameron, Nick Clegg and then Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to end child detention. Since then 4,000 children have escaped the trauma of detention. In January 2014 the Government announced an amendment to the Immigration Bill to prohibit in law the detention of children for immigration purposes.  This enshrines in law the progress that the government has made since 2010 in ending the practice of locking up over a thousand innocent children with their families in prison-like conditions.

The recent planning and strategy meeting was interspersed with a Muslim Iftar meal – hosted in the synagogue – and the Jewish celebration of Havdalah, marking the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the working week.

Afterwards, Imam Suliman Gani stated:

“I visited the Liberal Jewish Synagogue because our faiths must act together for the common good. Our communities must welcome refugees, particularly those who have been driven from their homes.”

Rabbi Alexandra Wright said:

“The Liberal Jewish Synagogue is honoured to have hosted the Citizens UK ‘Sanctuary Pledge’ planning day. It was uplifting to see so many different communities engaged in vital action for change and to be part of the breaking of the fast for the Muslim community.”

Rabbi Danny Rich said:

“I pledge that Liberal Judaism’s synagogues will build temporary dwellings during the Jewish festival of ‘Succot’ and invite our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in to join us, as part of our work to ask our local councils to resettle a refugee family in our neighbourhoods.”



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An open letter to Arsene Wenger

Islington Citizens & Arsenal Fans call for the club to pay the Living Wage

Tomorrow, a team from Islington Citizens is heading to the Emirates Stadium to wish Arsenal good luck for their first game of the season and to remind them of the pressing need to champion the Living Wage by becoming the first Living Wage Football Club.

Martin Wroe, a member of North London Citizens, has written this wonderful open letter to Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal, asking for his support for the Living Wage.

Dear Arsène

Apologies for interrupting your busy schedule at the start of a new season but I’m after a small favour.

A few months back I wrote to Arsenal’s CEO, your colleague Ivan Gazidis, about a friend of mine Raja, who works for you in catering at the Emirates Stadium.

I explained what a reliable, hard-working bloke Raja is, preparing meals, washing up, how maybe Ivan had even been served a drink by him without knowing it. The problem is the wages — even if Raja takes every shift going he can’t make ends meet.

But with the Stadium almost paid for you’ve been explaining how the club is in a new financial era and has ‘more money available today than five years ago’.

And as luck would have it, you and Ivan have been working on this very issue of staff remuneration all summer. You’ve brought in a radical new wage structure so young legends like Ramsey and Wilshire don’t leave us to double their salaries at other clubs like that Dutch striker who used to play for us… name eludes me.

As well as tying down hotshots like Walcott and Cazorla to long-term deals on £100,000 a week you’ve invested £100m on ready-made superstars like Özil and Sanchez. Apparently the AFC books are so healthy, that the annual wage bill has jumped by £40m a year.

So this is the perfect moment to take a look at Raja’s wage structure… and the hundreds of cleaners, caterers, programme sellers and security personel who earn around £6.50 per hour at the club, just above the legal minimum of £6.31.

With your Masters Degree in Economics you’ll appreciate that £6.50 an hour in London in 2014 can leave you a little short. That’s why I explained to Ivan that some weeks Raja needs to cadge twenty or thirty quid from his mates, just to tide him over between one week’s bills and the next.

I described how people on such low incomes have to take second or third jobs to put food on the table for their families, to buy school uniforms for the kids. How they leave the flat early and get home late. How some days they barely see their partners, their children. How some days it’s all too much, the very life sapped out of them.

One morning in the week of the Cup Final (what a day — that’s my photo of Aaron Ramsey at Wembley — what a player ) I walked over to the Emirates and dropped my letter into Ivan’s office. I haven’t had a reply yet but later it dawned on me that at the time he was preoccupied with getting you to sign up to your new wage structure — and what a relief to everyone that you finally signed on. And probably, with all the transfer activity since then, he hasn’t had time to read my letter.

But 15,000 people have read it and a lot of them have asked, ‘Has Ivan replied?’

‘Not yet,’ I’ve been telling them. ‘I might need to get Arsène to remind him…’

I was asking Ivan to get the club to adopt the Living Wage, calculated each year according to the basic cost of living. It’s the amount someone needs to get by if they’re holding down one job, instead of two. So they can have a family life, help the kids with their homework, go to the pub, watch the football.

In London it’s set at £8.80 an hour. That’s a couple of quid more than the legally enforced minimum wage, a couple of quid that, over time, can lift a family out of working poverty. A couple of quid to transform life for thousands of people.

As you know Ivan is from a remarkable family, his heroic parents fought apartheid in South Africa. I’m sure he sees the social justice in the Living Wage argument but when he’s asked about it, he says it’s ‘complex’. Which, as everyone knows, is what the powerful often say in the period before they realize it’s not.

I told Ivan how all the main political leaders in Britain were backing the Living Wage — how David Cameron says ‘it’s an idea whose time has come.’ And in the last couple of months it’s really taking off.

Nestle, the world’s largest food company, almost as big a brand as Arsenal, has signed up, committing to pay the Living Wage to all staff and contractors. ITV has become the first broadcaster to sign up and last month HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank with 44,500 staff, also became a Living Wage Employer. (Funnily enough, when they’re first approached, companies often say it’s ‘complex.’)

A lot of fans are hoping Arsenal could be the first Living Wage Premiership club but Man City are also looking at it. After that 3–0 thrashing we gave them at Wembley you know better than anyone this is not the time for City to beat us again. This is a time for mental strength.

Anyway, here’s the favour I need — I was wondering if you could talk to Ivan about the economic and moral argument for a Living Wage.

A year or two back you brought some first team players to a local school where I’m a governor, promoting Arsenal’s amazing work in the community.

You talked of the three R’s of a good football club — results on the pitch, respect for tradition and responsibility to the community. (Incidentally, we’re a local school not a global brand, but we’re also Living Wage Employers.) You talked of how you’d learnt your moral values ‘through football’ and how a football club must show moral leadership.

‘As a club we have an educational purpose: to give back to those people who love Arsenal so that they learn moral values from our game and how we behave.’

Becoming a Living Wage Club might be ‘complex’ but no-one said showing moral leadership in the community is simple. If Arsenal broke the mould again, it wouldn’t be long before every Premiership club followed suit, transforming life for thousands of people.

There are now 800 Living Wage organisations, up 75% in a year. Household name brands like KPMG, Barclays or Lush Cosmetics aren’t doing it out of charity. They’re doing it because makes economic sense – boosting staff retention, morale and productivity.

I remember you once saying that ‘In a competitive world, not everybody can follow the pace; you will leave people out. We now accept that we must take care of these people.’

To borrow my favourite word of yours, what a truly footballistic idea. The Living Wage is one small mechanism in which a good society — or a good football club — can ensure that people are not left out. It means that the often invisible people who pick up the litter or flip the burgers on a match day also have a decent wage structure on which to build rewarding lives.

You support UEFA’s Financial Fair Play, designed to level the playing field in the era of debt-laden, unsustainable clubs. The Living Wage is like Financial Fair Play for low-paid staff. Hafiz, another Emirates caterer, puts it like this: If we were paid a Living Wage, we wouldn’t need two or three jobs and we could afford to use the tube rather than the bus for long journeys… we could spend a bit more time with the people we love.’

From the open-top bus riding through Islington with the FA Cup in May, you might have seen a small band of people holding up a Living Wage banner. North London Citizens will be organising a little demo like that outside the Emirates at every home match this season. These are fans who believe in your three R’s — results on the pitch, respect for the club’s traditions and now they want the Living Wage to demonstrate the club’s responsibility to the community.

So if you could wander into Ivan’s office and mention that letter — and if he says it’s all a bit ‘complex’, maybe you could remind him of your own philosophy when you said this.

‘The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who, at the start, we would have judged crazy. And yet if they had not had these crazy ideas the world would have been more stupid.’

Best wishes and thanks for making football a beautiful game

Martin Wroe

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