Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Living Wage for all in Brighton and Hove takes another step closer...

Some aspects of running a council are just about management of services, staff, budgets and so on. The stuff of plans and reports.

Some are about taking the big ideas at the root of our political philosophy and finding ways to turn them into reality - and in a way these are the most important. It's why we do this in the first place, to be honest, and it's why voters choose one party over another.

So here's a big idea at the heart of the Green Party's worldview: promote a more equal city by encouraging employers to increase wages paid to those tothose at the bottom of the pay hierarchy and to decrease salaries given to those at the top.

The evidence is pretty overwhelming now after all: more equal societies perform better for everyone, even the richest. The best way, for example, to improve community safety isn't to put gates up at the end of residential streets, but to improve pay parity. There's loads more examples on the Equality Trust website and in Wilkinson and Pickett's excellent  'The Spirit Level'.

It only took a few weeks to make a cracking start at the council: we agreed to pay all staff at least a minimum of £7.19 an hour and managed to get the council's Chief Executive to take a voluntary pay cut of 5%.

Persuading public sector parters (the police, for example, and the NHS) - let alone the private sector - to follow suit is a little trickier. But we've made progress here too, and yesterday was the first meeting of the Brighton and Hove Living Wage Commission.

Chaired by Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce Chair Julia Chantarey, the commission brings together many of the city's biggest employers - as well as experts on introducing a 'Living wage' from London and elsewhere, to try and make a Living Wage a reality in the city by next summer.

I hope it succeeds: if it doesn't, it won't be for good will or support from the city council.

Personally, I'm with Bob Black on work, when he observed that most of us work because we're forced to, either by violence, coercion, poverty or someone else's ethics, and the the best future for the workplace, as for the battlefield, is none at all - and that, when we've the choice, most of us play, or engage in leisure pursuits instead.

But that's no reason not to make sure that the least well off in our albeit flawed society aren't paid a bit more.

Its commitment to equality was once of the strongest reasons I joined the Green Party in the first place and I'm cock-a-hoop that it's taken just a few months for the first Green Party council in the country to make some real progress on the issue of low pay.

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