Taking the Fair Pay message to South London
This week as part of Fair Pay Fortnight, I joined the Southern and Eastern Region TUC and Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Council to run a series of street stalls across South London.
We started out outside Wandsworth Town Hall, where we were joined by local GMB and Unison branch reps and activists. We spoke to local government workers who told us they had been offered a 1% pay rise for the second year running, whilst senior members of staff had received 7% or more.
Many people who stopped to talk were already GMB or Unison members and were happy to see us taking action on the issue of fair pay. There was lots of support for our Britain Needs a Pay Rise petition and we received 50 signatures from the first stall alone.
Moving on, we went to Clapham Junction train station where we were joined by campaigners from Wandsworth Against The Cuts. Local people had a lot to tell us about low pay.
One particular story was from Caroline who explained to me that she was better off financially when she was a student at university. Now that she’s graduated she is finding it hard to get a well-paid job and is having to do unpaid volunteering to build up experience in her chosen field.
Caroline earns less than the London Living Wage and is having to live at home with her parents. She doesn’t know when she’ll feel secure financially as most jobs now are being offered on short fixed-term contacts which don’t give young people like her much room to plan for the future. Instead, she’s always worrying about the next job application.
After Clapham we then moved onto Roehampton where Putney Labour party members came to help out on the stall, including parliamentary candidate Shelia Boswell.
Roehampton is one of the poorest areas in Wandsworth and it was clear that many people were feeling the living standards squeeze. Gary there told us how he now struggles to pay for essentials like food and heating and how after bills he has about £100 left to last him through the month.
He said he enjoys going to watch professional cricket but can only go if he pays incrementally over the year. This year he hasn’t been able to make the payments. Life has become hard for him to enjoy.
After Roehampton we headed to Putney high street to leaflet outside clothing giant NEXT. NEXT recently announced bumper profits but instead of passing this extra money to its workers –in the form of a living wage– NEXT decided to reward its shareholders instead. We handed out leaflets calling on NEXT to pay the living wage.
All in all it was a good day’s campaigning. It was great to raise awareness about our campaign with members of the public and to work with local trade unionists and activists to get our message about the need for fairer pay and better jobs.