As Tom Skinner moves on from his role as Coordinator of the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign, he looks back on what has been achieved so far.
I finished my work as Coordinator of the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign in July. After three years I feel the campaign will benefit from a fresh perspective, so I am starting work on Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s Better Jobs project, hoping to change the culture of work to benefit workers in a range of ways.
I will start with a huge thankyou to Church Action on Poverty supporters, because it has been one of the best experiences of my working life. It has also been one of the most effective campaigns that I’ve been involved in, and I believe this is because of the combination of partnership building and people-power.
Much of the time it has felt like we are going ‘with the grain’. We have walked through open doors at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, some local authorities, and many businesses, charities and trades unions. This led to the first ever Chamber in the country becoming Living Wage accredited, and 7 out of 10 local councils bringing in the Living Wage, at least for their directly employed staff.
However, just as often, we have had to put in a lot of work to convince employers and influencers to bring in and support the Living Wage. Members of the campaign have advocated tirelessly for the Living Wage within their own organisations, such as Manchester City fans – whose campaign predates the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign – students at the University of Manchester, employees who have convinced their companies to sign up, and Living Wage employers who have brought their suppliers on board.
Without this broad base of people doing what they can for the Living Wage, we would not have achieved what we have – the first city region outside London to reach 100 Living Wage employers. I must also thank our partner the Living Wage Foundation, for actually setting the Living Wage rate and carrying out the accreditations.
The wider network, including Church Action on Poverty supporters, have played their part, for example writing to the Co-operative Group about the Living Wage. This led to a very productive series of meetings, and while nothing is certain I am very hopeful that we can see this through and ensure the Living Wage for tens of thousands of workers across the country – they could yet be the first accredited Living Wage supermarket in the country!
So where next for the campaign?
We must hope to get football clubs and the biggest employer in the city – the University of Manchester – over the line. Each has shown some willingness to engage with the campaign, but none have yet made a firm commitment.
There is also far more that we could expect from local authorities – although many have reached the Living Wage level for their staff, most are not accredited Living Wage employers and may not be committed in the long term or pressuring their suppliers to ensure the rate for their workers. With the dynamics of local politics changing due to devolution of powers, and with many mayoral candidates pledging to support the Living Wage, there is huge potential here.
Whichever employers and sectors we target in the future, under the coordination of my successor Alec Spencer, and with many wonderful people still involved, I believe it will go from strength to strength.