I work in an arthouse Cinema chain and am part of a huge campaign that started in October last year, when we asked our employer to pay the London Living Wage (a figure calculated by an independent group called the Living Wage Foundation).
This resulted in 16 weeks of industrial strike action and a media campaign that became larger than we could ever have expected. We have had regular features in several national newspapers including the front cover of The Observer, and received vocal support from key names in the industry like Ken Loach, Will Self and Eric Cantona.
I believe a big reason why the campaign was and continues to be so successful, is the huge number of people working in low paid jobs who saw our plight and easily empathised with our situation. A massive percentage of Britain’s work force are surviving on low wages, with five million below Living Wage rates of £7.65 an hour (£8.80 in London).
Service industry jobs especially, such as being a bartender or working in a cinema like me, are now considered merely a stepping stone for young people to reach a higher goal, or a ‘better’ job. Working in a bar is no longer considered a ‘real’ job, so those working in the industry are forced to work on wages below the Living Wage.
The figure is calculated as the minimum needed per hour for workers to cover the basics and attain a fundamentally decent standard of life, free from the trap of poverty. It’s unethical for companies to make a profit and not pay it.
Britain now has an unprecedented number of workers, some young and some not so young, that work in service industry jobs and will never be able to afford to own a property, or think about going into further education.
That is why Britain needs a Payrise, and that is why I will be marching. Look out for me with my fellow Living Staff Living Wage campaigners in our red and yellow t-shirts!