Living Wage Event Opening Speech

Thank you Philippa.

And thank you to Amy, Nigel and Harriet.

It is a pleasure to join both public and private sector employers at this morning’s event. It is great to see so many here.

I would particularly like to thank Amy and the Living Wage Foundation for their efforts in working with my team to make today happen.

The most important voice we heard this morning was Harriet’s. Confirmation, if we needed it, of the value of the Living Wage Foundations work.

Paying a decent wage.

It is not too much to ask.

And it is a cause that I have long championed.

In 2014 I brought forward a Private Member’s Bill – the Low Pay Commission Bill.

It was a Bill to make work pay, to strengthen the minimum wage and give greater powers to the Low Pay Commission.

It was a Bill of which I was very proud.

Much to my frustration at the time, and indeed now, the Bill was filibustered by two Members of the House who didn’t like the idea of paying a decent wage….

And, it is, perhaps, worth remembering that one of Labour’s greatest achievements, the National Minimum Wage, included a record sitting in the House of 26 and a half hours as Members, mainly from the Conservative party, sat through the night, opposing the Bill line by line.

Our efforts to pay a decent wage for a decent days work have been hard fought.

We are here at the heart of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.

A place where some of the world’s most advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses are choosing to call their home.

A place where some of the brightest and best businesses in the region work hand in glove with academics, researchers and other businesses to create new products and processes that are transforming our economy.

And this transformation is real. It is tangible.

We’re witnessing a first time in a generation growth in advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs that is driving our regions growth.

It is good for business and professional services, for creative and digital, for retail and logistics.

And these jobs are increasingly well paid.

There is a small, but I am pleased to say, growing band of 37 accredited Living Wage employers headquartered in the Sheffield City Region.

Employing 8,422 people.

Through this commitment alone these 37 employers are putting at least £670,000 back into the pockets of low paid workers in the region.

But. Whilst we should be confident about our economy and the growing number of Living Wage employers we cannot, must not, be complacent.

With 68,000 businesses in the region it is fair to say there is room for improvement!

The unacceptable truth is that, in 2018, around a quarter of all workers in Sheffield City Region are still paid less than the real Living Wage.

That is 145,000 working people right here in Sheffield City Region who do not earn enough to cover the absolute basics of housing, transport, childcare, Council Tax and living expenses.

These are people who care for our elderly, produce our food, look after our children and deliver the goods that we use every day.

These are people who we rely on. Each and every day.

And paying the Living Wage is good for people, for business and for our economy.

If a quarter of all low paid workers in the Sheffield City Region were given a pay rise to the real Living Wage, 36,250 people would see an average annual pay rise of £1,020. That’s an extra £20 a week.

That extra £20 a week would bring a huge £22 million boost to our local economy.

And, as we’ve already heard from city region businesses there are real, tangible benefits to being an accredited Living Wage employer.

So, this morning’s event is an important step in the right direction.

By promoting the value of the Living Wage,

by selling the benefits

and by making our own personal commitments we can make a real change for the better for our communities, our businesses and our economy.

On that note.

I think that if you believe in something you should role up your sleeves and do what you can to support it.

And so. I am delighted to announce that the Sheffield City Region has become the 38th Living Wage accredited employer headquartered in the region.

This is an important signal that the organisation that I lead is willing to not just talk the talk but also walk the walk.

I am also delighted that the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive are working towards accreditation.

Over the next year I will work with other public bodies, businesses and stakeholders to build momentum.

And I shall also explore how the money spent by public bodies can better promote progressive social objectives.

And of course I will do all I can to showcase those businesses that join our cause.

Thank you.