On Monday I announced I would raise the wages for 182 of our poorest paid staff at West Midlands Police to £9 per hour.
Having pledged to be a ‘real living wage’ employer two years ago I have vowed to follow the pay increases, set annually, by the Living Wage Foundation charity.
This year the Foundation has announced that its members should increase pay – for their lowest paid staff – by 2.8 per cent. That’s £1.17 more than the government’s legally binding living wage.
Nationally over 180,000 people will benefit.
The ‘real living wage’ is independently set and calculated based on what employees and their families need to live. This isn’t the same as the minimum wage and the government’s ‘living wage’ which are calculated in different ways and do not fully take into account increased prices and the higher cost of living.
Across the West Midlands 23 per cent of people earn below the real Living Wage. This means that around one in four people earn below what is needed to make ends meet. Some will have to choose between eating and heating this winter as the nights draw in and the weather gets colder.
I made the pledge to become one of over 4,700 employers committed to paying the real Living Wage in 2016. It means, two years on, that cleaners, porters and some of the great team who look after our police dogs are benefitting. All do jobs which are vital to delivering a police service which is efficient and effective. It has been proven that paying the real Living Wage is good for morale, helps reduce sickness levels and creates loyalty within an organisation.
But I haven’t simply stopped at boosting the pay of the poorest staff at West Midlands Police. I have gone one step further. Each year West Midlands Police pays external organisations around £100million to provide services to the force. It is now a condition of new contracts that any firm working for West Midlands Police must pay its staff the real Living Wage. The hope is that I can use the huge buying power of West Midlands Police to increase wages for those that need it the most across our region and beyond. More better paid jobs will help reduce crime too.
Poor wages are not good for the economy. 75 per cent of real Living Wage employers say that its introduction has been directly beneficial to retention and staff morale whilst 86 per cent say it has improved their reputation.
I would urge more employers to pay the real Living Wage. It makes sense for the police, it makes sense for businesses and other public sector organisations too, but most importantly it is the right thing to do.
David Jamieson, Police and Crime Commissioner