Work & Wages

GM Living Wage Campaign update

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As Greater Manchester (GM) emerges from the lockdown, we will need to work to make sure the coming recession doesn’t mean a race to the bottom for workers in GM.  We need to work together to ensure that we deliver the ‘Better’ in the #BuildBackBetter strategy and build back in a way that protects and improves the conditions and pay of our lowest paid workers. We need to support the key workers who have supported us all through this crisis and campaign to make sure that at the very least, they are paid the Real Living Wage. We need to ensure that we do not retreat in terms of numbers of already accredited Living Wage Employers and that we seek to protect the most vulnerable workers in those sectors that have traditionally paid people low wages.

What does this mean for the campaign for decent work for all workers in GM in general, and the campaign for a Real Living Wage in particular? These themes were discussed at a webinar on July 8th organised by the GM Living Wage Campaign on the topic of decent work, the Real Living Wage and the post lockdown GM economy.  Follow this link to see discussion and hear from our panel made up of Jenny Martin from Unison NW, Amy Rothwell from Boo Consulting and Graham Whitham from GMPA.  We were also joined in the discussion by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

Following on from the webinar, we are continuing the discussion and debate and in the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of podcasts of our conversations with people involved in these key issues. The first of this series of three is a discussion I had with Andy Burnham, where we covered a range of topics that will be interest to those supporting the living wage campaign in GM but also to a much wider audience.

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

GM Living Wage Campaign Coordinator
John Hacking

Twitter : @GMlivingwage  Facebook: www.facebook.com/gmlivingwage

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Decent Work and The Real Living Wage Post Covid

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By John Hacking

Greater Manchester (GM) went into the Covid-19 crisis as one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and will most likely come out of it in recession.

What does this mean for the campaign for decent work for all workers in GM in general, and the campaign for a Real Living Wage in particular?

It is likely that the economic impact on the GM economy will not be uniform across sectors.

The health and care sector in particular will continue to have a huge focus placed on it and there is clearly an increased sense of social solidarity and support for key workers in this sector and others such as transport and  local municipal services across the wider population. This will provide opportunities to protect the progress that has been made in tackling low pay amongst these workers and to press for improved job quality and pay.

There are, however, other sectors where low pay has traditionally been a problem in Greater Manchester.

Businesses in the ‘foundational economy’ and  particularly those in retail and hospitality will be very adversely affected, with knock on consequences for their employees, most of whom are unlikely to have earned the Real Living Wage even before the Covid-19 crisis. This will not be uniform across the conurbation, as areas that have a larger number of workers in these types of businesses will be more heavily affected.

The response that we make as the Greater Manchester Poverty Action and as the GM Living Wage Campaign will be affected by these changing circumstances. We will need to work with our partners in the Trade Unions, the Local Authorities and other public sector bodies and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector to ensure that ‘we hold what we have’ in terms of gains made in the past. In addition, we will need to find ways of working together to ensure that we meet the challenges ahead with a well-formed strategy and a sense of common purpose and energy.

GM Mayor Andy Burnham has said that government support for business should be linked to the introduction of better employment standards, including a Real Living Wage. This ‘Build Back Better’ approach is one that needs to shape the economic response across GM and nationally.

The timing and nature of the emergence from the crisis is unknown. The full scale and nature of the economic impact is unknown. The toll on wellbeing and mental health conditions of workers is unknown.

Even given all these unknowns we should start to think and plan for the challenges and opportunities ahead for our campaign and the aspirations of our partners and supporters.

With this in mind GM Living Wage Campaign will be holding a 1 hour online Think Session at 2pm on Wednesday May 13th, 2020. The session will be informal and will focus on thoughts and ideas for the post Covid-19 period both short and long term. If you want to take part please contact me

John Hacking GM Living Wage coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

John Hacking,
Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator

 

i3oz9sDecent Work and The Real Living Wage Post Covid
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Report on GM Living Wage week November 11th – 17th 2019

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This year’s Living Wage Week was a busy one for the GM Living Wage Campaign as we were involved in activities and events across Greater Manchester with partners and supporters.

GM Living Wage Campaign Living Wage Week Good Employment Charter for GM Poverty Action

Chris Smallwood, Martha Crawford and John Hacking

On Wednesday November 13th we ran a joint briefing event with The Good Employment Charter Implementation Unit at Salford Museum. The event was attended by over 25 employers who are supporters of the Greater Manchester Employment Charter and featured presentations on the benefits of the Living Wage from the GM Living Wage Campaign, Martha Crawford from the Living Wage Foundation and Chris Smallwood, MD of the Salford-based Living Wage Employer Anchor Removals. A blog on the Good Employment Charter website gives more information about the event.

At the Living Wage Foundation’s launch event in Salford on November  11th, Salford was recognised for its ambition to be England’s first accredited Living Wage Place. GM Living Wage Campaign is a member of Salford’s Living Wage Place Action group and a sponsor of the Living Wage bid. At the event there was the welcome announcement of Manchester City Council and Oldham Council becoming the latest GM local authorities to become Living Wage Employers. There was a commitment from Manchester City Council to take the next step to becoming a Living Wage Place and the GM Living Wage Campaign has been asked by Manchester City Council to work with them to achieve this objective.

On November 13th we partnered with Boo Consulting, a Living Wage Employer in Bolton to hold a Living Wage networking session. We attended the event along with 10 Bolton employers, some of whom are already  Living Wage Employers and others who wanted to know more. The event was a great success and we will be working with colleagues in Bolton to work towards Bolton becoming a Living Wage Place.

GM Living Wage Campaign Living Wage Week Tony 'Longfella' Walsh for GM Poverty Action

Tony ‘Longfella’ Walsh

We also ran an extensive social media campaign to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of paying the real Living Wage. The campaign celebrated accredited employers and featured key GM figures photographed showing their commitment to the campaign for the Living Wage. We had a range of supporters from local authorities, trade unions, voluntary and community sector organisations and private business. We also had a pledge of support from Manchester poet Tony Walsh aka Longfella. The hashtag #GMLivingWage was widely used through the week on Twitter. We also shared information through our social media networks, to support the action taken by GM Citizens at Stockport Town Hall to lobby Stockport Council to become a Living Wage Employer.

If you want any more information about Living Wage Week in particular or the GM Living Wage Campaign in general then email the GM Living Wage Campaign Coordinator John Hacking

Follow the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign on Twitter and Facebook

 

 

i3oz9sReport on GM Living Wage week November 11th – 17th 2019
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Poverty, Destitution and Exploitation

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Understanding the vulnerabilities of people homeless and rough sleeping to modern slavery

by Tom Madden, STOP THE TRAFFIK

Exploitation is an under-reported but inextricable aspect of poverty. Traffickers are professionals at turning vulnerable peoples’ desires for a better life into profit through the most vicious kinds of exploitation. While other elements of extreme poverty have been studied in great detail in the UK and around the world, the links between chronic poverty and exploitation are less well understood.

In the media and in public conversation, trafficking and exploitation are often portrayed as crimes that mostly effect people from outside the UK. Whether recent arrests of the Czech sex trafficking ring in Levenshume and Gorton or the tragedy of the 39 Vietnamese nationals found dead in the back of a Lorry in Essex. What is often missing from the reporting is that in the UK, there are three times more minors exploited from the UK than any other nationality and UK adults are the 4th most frequently exploited demographic. Vulnerability to exploitation does not depend on the country you live in, but on the leverage traffickers can use to control and manipulate people for a profit. With the UK’s social safety net stripped in the wake of austerity since 2010, 14 million people living below the poverty line and 1.5 million destitute across the country, the number of people vulnerable to exploitation is huge.

One of the most vulnerable groups in the UK are people who are homeless or rough sleeping. Despite decreases in the numbers of people with no place of safety in Greater Manchester following the concentrated efforts of housing schemes like A Bed Every Night, the problem remains significant and the number of people who are vulnerable to exploitation remains high. Previous research has demonstrated links between homelessness, rough sleeping and a vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation. The Passage in London 2017 report found that 64% of homelessness organisations have encountered modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Helpline reports that 276 cases connect modern slavery to homelessness. In addition, the links between rough sleeping and a vulnerability to trafficking have been illustrated in numerous case studies.

Specifically, Human Trafficking Foundation and Greater Manchester Combined Authority identified attributes which increase rough sleepers’ vulnerability including:

•  A history of mental health issues
•  Alcohol and drug dependency needs
•  Former asylum seeker status
•  Having no recourse to public funds

Between January and March 2019, STOP THE TRAFFIK circulated a survey aiming to understand the experiences of being targeted for exploitation from people who were rough sleeping, homeless, or accessing homeless services across Greater Manchester. Extensive findings from the survey are presented in a full report.

The survey revealed that out of the 180 respondents:
•  29% had experienced being offered food, accommodation, drugs or alcohol in return for work
•  32% had witnessed or heard of it happening to someone else
•  21% had concerns over how safe or genuine these offers were
•  22% had warned someone, or been warned, not to take job offers from particular people or groups
•  17% had known someone go missing after taking up an offer of work
•  24% had not been paid wages that were promised to them after doing work

The report also includes quotes which viscerally characterise the exploitation taking place in the region every day:

“[People offer food, accommodation, drugs or alcohol to me] all the time – everyone who is rough sleeping gets asked to sex work or prostitute themselves”

“[I was] bullied… for not shoplifting. My feet was burnt down and I was thrown in the canal”

Tom Madden Stop the Traffik for GM Poverty Action

Tom Madden, Community Data Analyst for STOP THE TRAFFIK

Having demonstrated the existence of the problem, STOP THE TRAFFIK and GMCA are collaborating on a second stage of the research and a multi-agency response to the issue. We will build a network of organisations working to support homeless and rough sleeping people across Greater Manchester and collate their understandings of the exploitation occurring in the communities that they support. We will then disseminate this shared learning, through training, awareness campaigns and literature to transform Greater Manchester’s understanding and preventative strategy towards the exploitation to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

If you would like any more information about the report or would like to get involved in the upcoming preventative projects combatting exploitation in Greater Manchester, please get in touch by email.

More information about STOP THE TRAFFIK

 

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UC & in-work conditionality

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Universal Credit and In-Work Conditionality – the employers view

by Katy Jones, Centre for Decent Work and Productivity, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School

Universal Credit – the new working age benefit for people who are unemployed or on a low income – potentially involves the introduction of “in-work conditionality” (IWC), placing responsibilities on individual claimants to increase their earnings (e.g. through increasing their hours/earnings in their current place of work or by taking up additional or alternative jobs elsewhere). These expectations may be backed up by support (e.g. through advice from Jobcentre staff), but also by benefit sanctions if individuals do not comply with mandatory work-related requirements.

Whist additional support for low-income workers is welcome, the extension of IWC (and sanctions) to those in work is controversial. Research focusing on claimant experiences has raised questions about the extent to which IWC results in meaningful in-work progression, and has uncovered the counterproductive consequences of a sanctions-based approach focused on requirements to apply for a high volume of jobs. Furthermore, employers are key to outcomes arising from such policies, but they have been largely absent from policy discussions. Our project (briefing note and full report), supported by PIN, begins to fill this gap, through consulting with 12 businesses operating in Greater Manchester.

The employers sampled offered a range of roles and contract types – some offered mainly full-time positions, others offered mainly part-time roles but required staff to take on additional work as required, some employed staff on zero hours contracts. Regarding expectations for employees to progress within their firm, employers said that this was something they would consider, however that the capacity for this varied, and weak consumer demand could make offering more hours difficult. Ultimately, their ‘bottom line’ would have more sway over expectations placed on staff, and there was widespread reluctance to increase wages due to perception that this would impact negatively on profits. Furthermore, employing staff on a part-time, flexible basis was central to existing business models:

We wouldn’t want to have every single person on a full-time contract. We’d still need some flexibility to
fluctuate with the demands of business levels”
(Employer 11, hotel)

Employers felt that the impact of IWC would depend on a range of factors including business needs, worker responses, and the approach taken (i.e. whether a supportive/sanctions-based approach, and the nature of support). There was a concern that IWC may be a hindrance to workforce flexibility and that it might adversely impact on staff motivation and well-being:

“[It’s] simple, happy team, happy guests…If we have a team who’s burdened with all these headaches,
then of course that’s going to impact on our quality, productivity”
(Employer 5, hotel)

Katy Jones MMU for GM Poverty Action

Katy Jones

Employers also felt IWC could increase recruitment costs for businesses – not only due to increased turnover, but also if more applications were made by others subject to it. Interviewees complained about the high costs associated with dealing with a high volume of applications, which they felt in part resulted from the existing emphasis of Jobcentres on requiring jobseekers to focus on the quantity, rather the quality of applications and job fit.

In addition, some employers felt that policymakers should focus more on employer practices, rather than solely on claimants. Supporting employers to be better businesses was felt to be more likely to have a positive impact on both individual progression opportunities and firm performance:

It would be probably more beneficial for the government to help employers become better employers, and to make the workplace a more positive environment than it is to push employees to get more jobs” (Employer 10, soft play centre)

Our project has highlighted a number of important issues which policymakers should consider as their ‘in-work offer’ is developed. Importantly, a ‘work first, then work more’ approach, focused on placing conditions on individual workers fails to consider long-standing issues of poor work quality and management practices, and appears to be at odds with the nature of the UK labour market, and broader policy agendas focused on improving productivity and work quality.

More information about the Centre for Decent Work and Productivity

 

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Working conditions in Manchester’s textile manufacturing sector

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by Lucy Brill

In 2017, the international women workers’ organisation, Homeworkers’ Worldwide (HWW), more used to mapping the garment industry in countries as far away as India, Chile and China, completed a scoping study on working conditions within the textile and garment manufacturing sector within Greater Manchester (GM). Our report is available on the Homeworkers Worldwide website here.

Our outreach project contacted over sixty local organisations, collating anecdotal information about workers in the sector, which eventually led to interviews with two retailers, six manufacturers and five workers. We also built up a database of information about over a hundred companies within GM.

Initial interviews found evidence that confirmed that the low wage rates (around £4/hour) and double accounting systems found by Professor Hammer in Leicester in 2015 were also present in some factories in Greater Manchester:

They give us payslips but they only show 16 hours/week, at £7.50/hour, whereas in fact we’re doing many more hours than that .. usually we do 30 hours/week… and we’re paid around £500/month.

Small manufacturers also highlighted the challenges they faced, due to large retailers’ unfair purchasing practices, which included driving down prices to levels where it was impossible for them to pay their workers properly and leaving invoices unpaid for several months at a time.

In Bangladesh or China you have to pay 30% in advance, and then pay everything to release the goods … whereas here the law is so weak, they all expect 60 or 90 day terms ..

the retailers are very dishonest ..  they’re all billionaires, yet they won’t pay invoices for months ..

E-tailer X .. is really hard to work with, constantly driving down the prices ..

This was intended to be an initial study, that we hoped would lead to a larger action research project. Unfortunately  we were not able to extend the scoping study so it is not possible to say how prevalent these issues are within the UK industry.

The report highlights the importance of further research to enable workers voices to be heard in the debate to improve working conditions within UK manufacturing, and concludes with some provisional policy recommendations.

These include the importance of accessible employment rights advice backed up by effective enforcement services that operate independently of immigration controls, to support workers who take action to claim those rights. Large retailers particularly those who value the flexibility and fast turnaround that local manufacturers can provide, need to recognise their responsibilities, and support their much smaller UK based suppliers to provide decent working conditions for workers making and packing their clothes now, and also to invest in a sustainable future for the UK industry.

Small suppliers need retailers to help them manage the risks involved in the fashion business, so they do not pass these onto their workers. Employers highlighted issues such as prompt payment terms, as well as larger or more consistent orders, which would reduce their overheads and enable them to improve working conditions within their factories. National government should also consider introducing joint liability for the most serious labour rights abuses, to hold the often much larger retailers accountable for working conditions in their supply chains

Homeworkers world wide article Lucy Brill photo for GM Poverty ActionHWW would be very keen to collaborate with others to find ways to extend this work, as was originally planned when we started on the work in 2017. Please contact Lucy Brill if you have any proposals to take this forward.

 

Lucy Brill
Homeworkers Worldwide Co-ordinator

 

i3oz9sWorking conditions in Manchester’s textile manufacturing sector
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Making employment work for everyone

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By Andy Burnham , Mayor of Greater Manchester

For many people, modern work isn’t working.

In an increasingly insecure UK labour market, poverty rates have risen for every type of working family and one in eight workers nationally is now in poverty.

Our Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, launched earlier this year, found that wages have fallen by 6.6% in real terms between 2006 and 2016 for the average worker in the city-region, in a labour market which has seen a rise in unstable and low paid work.

This can’t be right. We need to be offering employees secure, fulfilling and well-paid work that prevents them from falling into poverty in the first place, and that means that our businesses can grow and succeed based on the skills and engagement of their staff.

That’s why in Greater Manchester we’re doing things differently, working with employers and employees in all sectors, trade unions, business representative organisations and other key stakeholders to develop a Good Employment Charter.

Through two consultations and a broader co-design process involving GM Poverty Action and others we’ve developed a list of seven employment characteristics which define good employment:

  • Security of work
  • Flexible work
  • Payment of a real living wage
  • Excellent people management
  • A productive & healthy workplace
  • Excellent recruitment practices and progression
  • Workplace engagement and voice

We want to bring employers with us on a journey towards best practice in each of these fields, demonstrating the positive impact that better employment standards can have on employee welfare and business performance alike. The Charter will therefore have a tiered approach to help support and encourage employers to share excellent practice, access support to progress to higher standards, and help them become more successful as a result.

Through our co-design process and as we move into the implementation of the Charter, we’re building a coalition of organisations committed to improving employment practice and offering fair conditions for their workers.

In this way, Charter members will be at the heart of the movement, demonstrating its values and spreading its influence and positive impacts to other employers in Greater Manchester – advocating membership amongst their networks and supply chains.

Our Charter model has now been agreed by the Combined Authority and, working with partners, we are beginning the process of putting the Charter into action. Already, it has been highlighted by the recent Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review as an important element in increasing economic growth and pay in the city-region.

I’d like to thank GM Poverty Action for the help and advice they have provided throughout the Charter’s design. I believe the model we have created together can and will make a real difference for people in Greater Manchester.

More information is available on the GMCA website

You can read GMPA’s responses to the Good Employment Carter consultation here

i3oz9sMaking employment work for everyone
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