By Vanessa Conant, Rector of the Parish of Walthamstow
It’s nearly always a Saturday when the doorbell will ring and someone will ask for food or for help with gas or electricity, just enough to get through the weekend. In my work as a parish priest, I regularly meet people who work long hours in challenging and demanding jobs but find it almost impossible to meet the costs of living in Waltham Forest, a situation which leads to exhaustion, stress and anxiety. Anecdotal accounts of low paid work in the Borough (and its impacts) are borne out by research – according to the charity, Trust for London, Waltham Forest has the highest percentage of jobs paying below the Living Wage anywhere in the capital, at 37 per cent.
It’s why a campaign to double the number of London Living Wage employers in the Borough has caught the imagination of our congregation in St Mary’s Walthamstow and is part of our work with Waltham Forest Citizens, an alliance of schools, colleges, mosques and churches who work together to pursue the Common Good. And it’s why we were overjoyed when two local businesses recently accredited, marking their public commitment to paying a fair and sustainable wage for their employees.
On 29th September 2018, Froth & Rind became the first business on Orford Road to accredit as a London Living Wage employer. They were the 17th business in the Borough to accredit, joining Church Hill Nursery who also accredited in September and following in the footsteps of businesses like Wild Card Brewery who have been paying since the business began. As a parish, we too are Living Wage employers, committed to the scheme since the beginning of the Citizens UK campaign.
As Waltham Forest Citizens, our goal is to create the Borough’s first London Living Wage Zone, with over 50% of the businesses in Walthamstow Village accredited as paying London Living Wage.
Recent research from the Living Wage Foundation and the Smith Institute found that if a quarter of low-paid workers were lifted onto the London Living Wage of £10.20, and £8.75 in the rest of the UK, in ten city regions, there would be enormous benefits.
These include the Treasury benefitting from £350m in increased tax receipt spending and benefit savings and more than half a million workers securing an annual pay rise of £1,700. Over 93% of businesses who have accredited say that it has benefited their business, improved their reputation and increased their staff retention rates.
Even more than the economic impacts, we know that paying the London Living Wage has huge benefits for employees and so for our wider community. The London Living Wage means that people aren’t anxious about covering the next bill, there is more time to spend with family or friends and even the possibility of saving for unexpected expenditure. The Living Wage can genuinely transform lives and make a huge contribution to the well-being of local residents.
In May 2017, London Borough of Waltham Forest also accredited as a Living Wage employer, one of only thirteen London boroughs who have signed up the scheme. Waltham Forest Citizens is working with LBWF to encourage more local businesses to accredit and on Thursday, November 8th we will co-host the Borough’s first London Living Wage Breakfast. From 8-9.30, at TRAP Brewery (another business in the process of accrediting) on Ravenswood Industrial Estate off Shernall St, businesses will have the opportunity to learn more.
As a church, we are committed to the flourishing of our community – it is how we seek to follow Jesus’ instruction to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’. The campaign for the London Living Wage in our Borough is an expression of that same commitment. We believe that doubling the number of London Living Wage employers in Waltham Forest will lead to the flourishing of businesses and the flourishing of the people employed by them. We hope that many will join us in sharing this vision and working to make it a reality.