Timed with the update of the Living Wage Foundation’s 2020/21 Living Wage rates, a group of city and business leaders participated in a webinar in November.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram was the first to speak, making the real Living Wage announcement for 2020-21. For the next tax year, Living Wage Employers should be paying £9.50 per hour to track the real cost of living, a 20p increase from the previous year. Rotheram noted that in the region, some 111,000 employees were paid less than the real living wage in April 2020. 110 organisations in Liverpool are currently accredited Living Wage Employers, including Liverpool FC, Everton FC, Liverpool University and John Moors University. In total, these 110 employers mean that 3,000 employees are uplifted - £4m into the pockets of low-wage workers. Rotheram wants to “re-double efforts” and promote a Fair Employment Charter.

Mark Donnelly of Oak View Group (OVG) spoke as the first employer, shifting the dress code from Rotheram’s white tee and hoodie to an open collared shirt. OVG International is building an arena in Manchester, the future Co-op Live venue (title sponsor recently announced). OVG are building a further four world-class arenas in Seattle, New York, Austen and Palm Springs, California - Manchester is their first European facility (Harry Styles is also involved). Donnelly spoke about the real Living Wage commitment as being good business rationale - creating “good quality jobs” and attracting talent. OVG will ensure that contractors and sub-contractors will - some 3,000 jobs throughout the construction phase.

Chris Dabbs of Unlimited Potential spoke next to represent Salford - the city has a goal to grow the amount of from 59% (2019 to 65% by the end of 2022). In a pre-recorded clip, the city’s mayor Paul Dennett spoke, indicating that Salford now has 47 Living Wage Employers. Employees from Zymurgorium and United Response provided testimonies on what it felt like to be paid the real Living Wage, meaning less job seeking to supplement wages. Employer Jane Garnsey from TalkTalk also explained that the transition to becoming a Living Wage Employer made running the business easier. absenteeism down by 300% and now it’s easier to recruit. This provides hope that Salford will reach its target to have 76 Living Wage Employers in the city by the end of 2022.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) were represented by Elaine Johnson who explained how paying the real Living Wage had been received positively by their care workers. RBH are one of 17 housing providers in Greater Manchester, each Living Wage Employers. Collectively, just under 1,000 employees are included in their payroll, most being local to the area. Johnson mentioned that this means that local workers now have the means to support themselves and spend money at local businesses.

Finally, Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham spoke from his renowned attic. Some 270 accredited Living Wage Employers are based in the city region - equating to pay increases for 9,000 for people in Manchester. More work needs to be done to make a “Living Work Country”, reminding viewers of a major stat: 5.5m working adults are paid below the real Living Wage in the UK. Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford was credited for highlighting in-work poverty, helping to explain the high rates of Covid-19 infection in the North. Manchester Good Jobs Charter is referenced by Burnham - he hopes to link with Liverpool to amplify the region’s Living Wage signal. He suggests creating an action group to look into going beyond pay to touch on security, diversity and flexibility, and link this charter to public procurement criteria - what good employment should look like in the 21st Century.

Watch the full recording on Vimeo