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Government contract workers should get a real Living Wage

Many thousands of workers employed on our public money don't get a real Living Wage. The Government should go further than the minimum wage and follow the lead of employers like us. Read this blog by Tim Thorlby, Managing Director at Clean for Good and Matt Parfitt, Founder of Radiant Cleaners.

Chances are most of us have interacted with a cleaner at some point; they tidy our offices or homes and help us leave things in order at the end of a rental tenancy. But have you ever wondered whether that cleaner is earning enough to live on and keep their own home warm?

The crisis of stagnating wages and rising costs has hit the headlines before. So, it may not come as a surprise to you that there are thousands of hard-working people in Britain who are paid under a real Living Wage and are increasingly struggling to get by: having to choose between putting food on the table or paying the bills, or holding two or three jobs down just to keep their heads above water.

But what may shock you is that the Government uses public money to pay the low wages earned by the workers it contracts out to run public services. This means that the cleaners, security guards and caterers working in the corridors of power in most Government departments or the builders working on publicly-funded infrastructure projects are often earning the legal minimum.

Research consistently shows that the minimum wage isn’t enough for staff to meet the rising cost of living. Yet there is a clear alternative that responsible employers have been championing for years.

As the Directors of two ethical cleaning companies, Clean for Good in London and Radiant Cleaners in Nottingham, we are proud that all our cleaners earn the real Living Wage, which is based on the true cost of living and independently calculated by the Living Wage Foundation.

Our firms were set up by churches and charities involved with Citizens UK, a charity that organises communities to act for the common good. We decided to act after hearing countless stories in our communities of the stress and hardship of life on low pay. Now, we get to employ workers like Florentina who used to struggle to get by, or Bill who used to be homeless.

If we can do the right thing and lift workers out of poverty, so can the Government. And it isn’t just us: over 4,600 employers across all employment sectors have chosen to voluntarily pay the higher Living Wage, enabling them to meet the cost of living. This figure doesn’t just include successful big businesses like Ikea or KPMG, but also small enterprises like art galleries and restaurants. Even cash-strapped Local Authorities, such as Winchester and Blackpool Councils, have joined the movement and are paying all their staff at least the real Living Wage.

The belief that a hard day’s work deserves a real Living Wage is an idea with cross-party support whose time has come. In fact, Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, who chairs a Parliamentary group on poverty, has made the case for the real Living Wage as passionately as the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

So, when next week the Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, announces his new spending plans as part of the Autumn Statement we hope he takes the opportunity to require all companies contracted out to run public services to pay the real Living Wage. By doing so, the Government would not only free many thousands of workers from poverty, but also demonstrate its commitment to using our public money responsibly.

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