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Shining a spotlight on key workers earning below a real Living Wage

Photo credit: Living Wage accredited employer Clean for Good.

Citizens UK is celebrating brave cleaners and security staff on International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards , which takes place on June 15 every year.

With 60% of cleaners and a third of security staff earning below the real Living Wage, more needs to be done to ensure that these key workers’ hard work allows them to lead more comfortable lives.

Matthew Bolton, our Executive Director, added to these statistics, saying: “We have to remember that key workers are going out, risking their own lives, and the lives of their families, to keep our country running throughout the Covid-19 crisis. This is incredibly brave. This is why we have launched our #LivingWage4KeyWorkers campaign – to do whatever we can to get these people the recognition they deserve.”

Did you know?

According to recent research released by the Living Wage Foundation and New Economics Foundation , 1.4 million key workers earn below the real Living Wage and are in insecure contracts without guaranteed hours.

How are we trying to change this?

We launched the campaign to get key workers a real Living Wage at the end of June. An initial petition was set up by care worker Tabitha asking for Government funding to guarantee a real Living Wage in the social care sector, and care home blessings have taken place across the country. Citizens UK is also shining spotlights on other key workers living below a real Living Wage.

One anonymous cleaner, Gigi, who worked in a care home in Birmingham, explained how difficult working during Covid-19 has been: “I was a cleaner at a care home for two years. When Covid-19 hit the care home, the cleaners were the last people to be informed by the care staff. Thankfully I tested negative, but I began to see so many breaches of safety protocols that I had no choice but to quit because I was scared for my own safety and that of my family. It feels like we are the lowest of the low compared to other key workers."

Methodist Church Minister and Birmingham Citizens member, Reverend David Butterworth, said that places like Lozells in Birmingham have been battered extremely hard with Covid-19. "Naturally communities wish to 'clap for carers' but they want care sector staff and other key worker roles to receive the real Living Wage for this life saving role like their counterparts in the NHS . It's only just and right that key workers receive a proper pay, protection and equality in pay."

The impact of earning a real Living Wage

The real Living Wage is currently £9.30 per hour across the UK and £10.75 in London . The rate is based on the cost of living and is voluntarily paid by over 6,000 UK employers including big household names like ITV , Nationwide , Oxfam and Chelsea Football Club who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

The impact of earning a real Living Wage can be huge. Paul Dixon (63) is one of Newcastle University ’s cleaning team. He was part of the group who influenced the University to commit to paying the real Living Wage. He said: "With all the new buildings the University is putting up, they have to be cleaned and looked after in between so it’s nice that cleaning staff like me, and gardeners, are being properly valued. This extra money will help out my daughters to give them the best start we can as they set up their own homes."

Wendy McConnell used to work as a cleaner. She said: "Cleaning is a hard job and I do not believe cleaners get the credit they should, especially not through pay. The real Living Wage would have made a great impact on my weekly income to help support my family. It would have also given me self-respect, as the money I was working for would reflect the hard job I was doing. I am now a parent and community organiser for Citizens UK, and I am extremely passionate about organizing and working with the Living Wage team as cleaners need their voices heard and their wages to reflect the difficult work they do. I believe everybody should have self-worth and be respected for what they do."

More details on how to get involved with Citizens UK’s #LivingWage4KeyWorkers campaign can be found at:

Posted on 15 Jun, 2020