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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum