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
Best Wishes and Stay Safe.
Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator