Living Wage Week runs from Sunday 5th to Saturday 11th November. We are suggesting a focus on the Living Wage in Sunday worship on 5th – and would encourage individuals and churches to take the #WhoIsMyCleaner challenge.The Living Wage Campaign – started over a decade ago by religious and civic groups in TELCO (the east London chapter of London Citizens and Citizens UK) has had a huge impact on the lives of low-income families. From being dismissed as ‘impractical’ and ‘unrealistic’, it has now grown into a national movement supported by the leaders of all the main parties, implemented by the Mayor of London, and recognised as having a robust business case by companies such as Barclays Bank and KPMG.
It is important to recognise the central role of faith communities – and in particular of churches – from the very start of the Living Wage Campaign. There would be no Living Wage if it wasn’t for thousands of people of faith organising together for change. To say this is not to ‘blow our own trumpets’. It is important to ensure this story is told honestly and accurately. Understanding what has brought change helps us win more of it.
Churches joining hands with other religious and civic groups in Citizens UK made the Living Wage possible. If we want to achieve real change on other issues – such as affordable housing, an end to exploitative lending (in Biblical terms, ‘usury’) and a banking system that invests in poorer communities – we need to use the tools that have been shown to work.
There are four key things your church can do for Living Wage week
1. Preach on the Living Wage
If you use a Lectionary, the Sunday at the start of Living Wage week may either be All Saints’ Sunday or the 31st Sunday in Ordinary time. We’ll be blogging with reflections on both sets of readings next week, and with some wider reflections on why a Living Wage is supported by the witness of Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching.
2. Get testimony from low-paid workers in your congregation
There is no substitute for personal testimony. Story is the main genre of Scripture – and has always been central to the success of the Living Wage campaign. Is someone in your church is willing to speak or be interviewed by you about life on poverty wages, or the positive impact of the Living Wage? Alternatively, a member of your congregation – or one of the community organisers from London Citizens – could speak or be interviewed by you about the stories behind the campaign, and how it has succeeded.
3. Ask #WhoIsMyCleaner
As well as campaigning for a Living Wage, CTC helped to found Clean for Good – a new ethical cleaning company, set up by Christian churches and charities. (Our Development Director Tim Thorlby chairs the company.) The #WhoIsMyCleaner challenge is to (1) Find out your cleaner’s name and thank them for the hard work that they do, (2) Find out if your cleaner is paid the Living Wage(£9.75/hr in London, £8.45/hr UK), and (3) If not, ask your organisation why?
4. Say ‘thank you’ to a Living Wage employer
Community organising involves tension and struggle – but we also recognise and celebrates success. Some employers who were once resistant to the Living Wage have now become powerful voices for its positive impact. Contact your local Citizens UK organiser and find out which local employers your congregation can thank. This can be by sending a letter on behalf of the church – or even getting members of the congregation to write a ‘thank you’ postcard. Experience suggests this can be done most effectively, and quite speedily, while the congregation is still together. Why not distribute postcards – and supply some pens – during the notices? You can collect the cards in and post them in one batch.