By The Bristol Post | Posted: February 05, 2014
IT'S been a hot topic in political debates around the country for years, but to date there appears to have been more talk than action on the 'living wage' in Bristol. But one city school is leading the way by introducing it – the first in Bristol to do so.
Since the start of the year, St Bede's Catholic College in Lawrence Weston has been paying all its employees a minimum of £7.65 per hour, a rate deemed to be high enough to cover the costs of living in Bristol.
As a result, 20 workers at the secondary school and sixth form have seen a pay increase.
It was governors at the school who decided to bring in the salary rise, despite the likely consequence of the move being a reduction in the college's budget.
The school's principal, Catherine Hughes, said: "There was generally a welcome to this change when employees were told. Although governors recognise this will have a consequent impact on the budget, that is not justification for paying people less than a fair amount.
"We feel that it was important to become a living wage employer as it is an expression of our solidarity with those individuals and organisations striving to achieve fair pay for all."
The living wage is an hourly wage rate calculated to take into consideration the costs of housing, transport, food and basic essentials for the worker and their family.
In November 2012, the Catholic Bishops' Conference passed a resolution that fully endorses the principle of the living wage and encourages Catholic organisations and charities in England and Wales to work towards its implementation.
Their resolution recognised that fair wages were essential to the "common good" of society.
The term living wage came to prominence in Bristol when it became one of the election pledges of Labour mayoral hopeful Marvin Rees, who lost out to George Ferguson in the race to become the city's first elected mayor in 2012.
He promised to introduce a living wage in Bristol if he was elected to the figurehead post. He pledged to bring in a rate of not less than £7.20 an hour for all council employees and hoped it would be extended across all firms and organisations throughout the city.
Mr Rees said he would have started the living wage from day one of taking office, which would have made Bristol the first council in the country to implement such a policy.
He said evidence had shown that a living wage made business more ethical and also brought down absenteeism, built a more stable and less transient workforce and improved the quality of work that people carried out.
Eventually, all the candidates bar one pledged their to support for the living wage for Bristol.
The living wage was originally a figure determined by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University as a sum people can reasonably live on.