‘Housing associations should pay Living Wage or risk losing public subsidy’



Bruce Forbes

All housing associations and their subsidiary companies should commit to achieving Living Wage accreditation or risk losing their future receipt of public subsidy, according to Angus Housing Association director, Bruce Forbes.

Angus Housing Association committed to the Living Wage, including for its cleaning and caretaking staff, immediately after its employer umbrella organisation, Employers in Voluntary Housing (EVH), and the Unite union reached an agreement to promote the living wage to their member employers in 2011.

Based on the actual cost of living, the real Living Wage is currently £8.75 per hour and is significantly higher than the UK government’s ‘national living wage’ rate of £7.50 which applies to over-25s only.

In a guest blog for Living Wage Scotland, Mr Forbes said housing associations also risk losing the support of tenants and the wider public if they do not meet the payment threshold.

“When I accepted an award from the STUC at their conference in the Caird Hall in Dundee to mark EVH’s commitment to the Living Wage, it was one of the proudest moments of my working life,” he said.

“Far too often, I hear stories about employment practices in our sector that are being driven by a ‘bean counter’ mentality. This both surprises and annoys me.”

“More recently, we have been formally accredited as a Living Wage Employer. Being a responsible employer is very important to us and nothing is more important than ensuring our lowest paid employees are properly paid.

“As an organisation, we receive public subsidy to help us build homes for rent. Any organisation receiving public subsidy should first be able to demonstrate that it has Living Wage Accreditation. Too often nowadays, I hear social businesses, like housing associations, discussing costs in the context of the ‘bottom line’. Far too often, I hear stories about employment practices in our sector that are being driven by a ‘bean counter’ mentality. This both surprises and annoys me.

“If there is any sector which should have a clear vision of the impact of a low-wage economy and an austerity-led welfare regime on the working poor, it is social landlords. We see the effect, at first hand, on our tenants on minimum or lower wages. Families who struggle to deal with the basics of life like paying their rent and feeding their children, simply to boost the profits of their employers. These same employers, of course, then rely on the state to provide healthcare and other services to their workforce.

“If we are to describe ourselves as responsible social landlords, we must surely recognise that paying our own employees properly is, inherently, one of these responsibilities.”



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