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October 20, 2015

UK: 'Our time' Makes Case For Living Wage

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MoneyLeading event professionals have begun paving the way towards introducing the living wage across the industry, saying it’s “our time” to make it work.

Representatives from agencies, corporates, venues, associations, along with Living Wage Foundation acting director Sarah Vero, met on Friday to discuss the benefits of the living wage and how to urge event buyers to put it on their agenda.

As much as 70 percent of London-based employees in the hospitality industry are paid below the living wage, while the UK-wide figure is 65 per cent. M&IT has teamed up with Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) to launch the Living Wage for Live Events campaign and started a petition.

“This is really about us trying to seize the moment and also agree on a pathway on what it is we should be aiming to achieve,” M&IT managing editor Martin Lewis said during the debate.

“It’s obvious it’s our time. The political arena is recognising there’s a link between living wage and business. We’re not necessarily saying it’s absolutely feasible in every area of the hospitality industry, but it’s obvious a lot more can be done.”

Robin Parker, general manager at Church House Conference Centre, where the debate took place, said there had been clear benefits from paying the living wage.

“Our team like working at Church House. How can you expect anyone to work on the living wage on £6.75?” he said.

Hannah Richardson, from KPMG, said the company was passionate about implementing the living wage: “The ethical motivation for it is so important and I can’t move away from that. There might be corporates who say they do things but it really breeds in our organisation.”

Sundial Group CEO Tim Chudley, whose venue Barnett Hill became one of the first accredited Living Wage employers, said there was work to be done to urge more corporates to adopt a similar view.

 “It’s been quite disappointing by corporate procurement when it comes to choosing venues. Many of the people I’ve spoken to say they’re not interested,” he said.

“They might not be making it a pre-requisite because there are not enough suppliers.”

British Hospitality Association’s Martin Couchman said feedback from the majority of members was that they couldn’t afford the living wage.

“They know you’re less likely to have staff turnover if you pay the living wage, but it’s the question of what’s affordable. We’re not saying there will be job losses, it will be more cutting hours; it will be the ability to create jobs,” he said.

The group is working to hold a launch event in the coming months. Register your support at www.livingwageforevents.com

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