Ed Miliband exclusive: 'We'd name and shame low-payers'

The Labour leader tells Jane Merrick of his plans to get all major firms to introduce the living wage

Major companies who do not pay their staff a "living wage" of at least £7.20 an hour would be named and shamed under plans being considered by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader tells The Independent on Sunday today.

A Labour government could also introduce rules to award Whitehall contracts to firms who pay workers above the living wage – the minimum hourly rate needed for an acceptable standard of living, he added.

Mr Miliband, in an exclusive interview with The IoS, said the living wage was a central part of his "One Nation" vision to "share prosperity". One in five workers is paid below the living wage, the vast majority in catering, cleaning and retail.

Labour's policy review is looking at three ways in which the living wage, currently £7.20 an hour outside London and £8.30 an hour in the capital, can be introduced by employers in both the public and private sectors:

• Listed companies would be required to sign up to new corporate governance rules stating they paid the living wage, exposing those who did not. Small and medium businesses would be exempt.

• Central government would use powers of procurement to give preferential treatment to contractors who paid the living wage. Some 19 local authorities are already doing this.

• Firms could also be incentivised by receiving money back from the Treasury. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that for every person moved on to the living wage, the Treasury would save around £1,000 from less spending on tax credits and from increased tax revenue.

A number of major firms, including City giants KPMG and Barclays, already pay workers and contractors such as cleaners and catering staff a living wage or higher, while 19 local authorities have been accredited as "living wage employers".

Tomorrow marks the start of Living Wage Week, when details are unveiled of new rates, and firms and councils that are accredited employers.

On a visit to Manchester on Friday, Mr Miliband met cleaners and catering workers who said their lives would be transformed if they earned more than £7.20 an hour. Manchester City Council is expected to introduce a living wage next April.

Joyce Wadsworth, 60, who has worked as a cleaner for the council for 26 years, told the Labour leader she had not had a holiday for six years. Last month her hourly rate increased from £6.84 to £7.15; it is expected to go above £7.20 next year.

Mrs Wadsworth added: "Everything has gone up in price.... But we hadn't had a pay rise in four years until this year. So we're just catching up. It will make a huge difference."

Speaking to The IoS, Mr Miliband said: "You go out, slog your guts out... you deserve a decent wage if the company can afford it.

"We've got a growth crisis in Britain but we've also got a living standards crisis, because the proceeds of economic growth are not being fairly distributed any more... This is the next step for One Nation, because One Nation is about everybody having a stake in society. It is about prosperity being fairly shared.

"It is about giving people a proper stake in the future of the country."

Mr Miliband insisted the living wage was good for businesses because staff turnover was lower. Barclays has paid the living wage in London since 2007. Catering-staff retention rates have increased to 77 per cent, compared with an industry norm of 54 per cent, and cleaning-staff retention rates to 92 per cent, against the norm of 35 per cent. Barclays says savings on recruitment and training have offset the wage-bill rise.

Mr Miliband will use an event in Islington, north London, tomorrow to highlight how that London borough is paying its grounds staff the living wage, while the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will also champion the measure at a separate event.

The three-pronged plan is an example of Mr Miliband's grand idea of "predistribution", although he has, since his party conference speech last month, used the "One Nation" concept to set out his vision for the country.

Mr Miliband insisted "One Nation" was "not just a slogan for a conference". "It's not a small-c conservative notion but a really radical one, because if Britain really was 'One Nation', it would be a much fairer place."

The idea of naming and shaming companies through corporate governance rules, and of paying money back to employers through Treasury savings, was set out in a report on living standards by the Resolution Foundation think tank last week.

Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: "One in five British workers are low paid and it's a major reason why so many lower-income families feel as if they're running uphill – working hard but getting almost nowhere. The high price of low pay is also borne by the taxpayer through in-work subsidies – so we all have reason to do something about it.

"Requiring listed companies to report how many of their employees receive less than the living wage would introduce the power of transparency to this debate; it would be a vital step and help galvanise change."

Strangers on a train

Boarding a train is an occupational hazard for a politician – just ask George Osborne. But when Ed Miliband walked into Coach A (standard class, Quiet Zone) of the 14.04 Virgin Trains Runcorn to London Euston service on Friday, he was confronted by a raucous group of women on their way to a hen party, where the theme was to dress up as different "Eds".

Julie Fraser, 58, from Liverpool, was in hysterics as she told the Labour leader she was going as Ed Balls. "How do you dress as Ed Balls?" a laughing Mr Miliband asked. Her costume was to be a necklace of tennis balls, said Ms Fraser. Showing a deft human touch not normally associated with the godfather of predistribution, Mr Miliband promptly got the Shadow Chancellor on the phone to chat to his impersonator. It was not known, however, whether anyone was going to the hen party as "Ed Miliband".

During his visit to Manchester and Cheshire, Mr Miliband was inundated with requests for pictures and autographs by passers-by – including one student, who asked him to sign his BLT sandwich wrapper.

Jane Merrick

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments