Cambridge city council becomes Living Wage employer

Image credit: Petras Gagilas

It was announced today that the Cambridge City Council are the latest organisation to become an accredited Living Wage employer.

This comes after Queens’ College took the same step in October.

Cllr George Owers, also a Cambridge History PhD student, said to Cambridge News: “Gaining living wage accreditation is an important step forward in our work to tackle poverty in Cambridge.

“We know there are people struggling because of low pay and high housing and living costs. I want the council to lead the way in supporting those people and paying the living wage is one way of doing that.

“Now, we will start the second stage of our campaign. This will entail working with other employers across the city to show them the benefits of paying the living wage and how their employees and their businesses will be better off by doing so.”

The announcement coincides with this year’s Living Wage week, organised by the Living Wage Foundation UK, which runs from the 2nd to the 8th November. A demo by the Cambridge Living Wage campaign, organised by Interim Living Wage CUSU Officer Daisy Hughes, is planned for Wednesday 5th outside Great St. Marys. The aim of the demo is, according to Hughes, to “stand in solidarity with all of those fighting for better working conditions in this difficult economic climate.”

Hughes welcomed today’s announcement. Speaking to The Cambridge Student, she said: “It’s really pleasing to see such a strong statement of support for the Living Wage being made by Cambridge City Council. Cambridge may be a relatively affluent city but it’s also an expensive one and there are still a large proportion of people living here who struggle to make ends meet.

“Hopefully the Council’s decision to accredit will encourage others, including the university and colleges, to follow suit.”

For a number of years, there has been a large amount of pressure from student political activists and groups for Cambridge colleges to pay the living wage. The Living Wage Campaign, led by CUSU and Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC), has been running since 2007. The campaign has seen recent success, including persuading King’s College and the University itself to pay all their staff the living wage earlier this year.

Living Wage Banner - Credit: Akshay Karia

Rory Weal, Publicity Officer for CULC, told TCS: “This is fantastic news from Cambridge’s Labour-run council, and a great way to start Living Wage week. It is another victory for campaigners, and will hopefully apply more pressure on employers across Cambridge to end poverty pay.”

And Chair of the Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats, Reece Edmends, said: "I welcome the news. Really good to see genuine cross-party co-operation on the issue bearing fruit." Julian Huppert, Cambridge's MP and a Liberal Democrat, has also been an active supporter of the Living Wage Campaign.

However, a second-year historian was less convinced. Whilst he said he supports rises in the minimum wage, it should be “at a moderate pace which takes account of the difficult economic climate in which companies, particularly smaller companies, must operate.”

He also objected to CUSU’s involvement. “As the Living Wage is a substantive issue of political debate, it is clearly inappropriate for CUSU to be involved in the campaign.”

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