An update on the Quaker Living Wage campaign

By Ellie on May 26, 2016

In our last Earth and Economy newsletter, we heard from Lancaster Quakers as they launched their Quaker Living Wage campaign. Six months on, Ann Morgan, of the Lancaster Quaker Living Wage Group, gives an update on what’s been happening.

In June 2015, having worked to raise awareness of the Living Wage in our local community for over a year, we were invited at a meeting of the Manchester & Warrington Social Justice Group to lead a national Quaker Living Wage campaign. We are delighted to announce that our group is now officially partnered with the Living Wage Foundation.

We are currently focusing on raising awareness of the Living Wage within the Quaker community.

Letters have gone out to all 70 area meeting clerks, inviting their meetings to join our campaign by becoming accredited Living Wage employers. We have also asked clerks to let us know if their meeting already pays the Living Wage, and if they will consider asking their trustees to apply for accreditation. We are offering support with the process of becoming accredited, including conversations with the Living Wage Foundation.

In March, we also sent a survey about the Living Wage to the 300 members and affiliates of Quakers and Business. From this, we hope to hear that some pay the Living Wage and that some are seeking accreditation. We also hope to gather information about the problems that small enterprises may face in paying the Living Wage.

Earlier in the year, Bailrigg Meeting in Lancaster met with UNITE the union, which is starting pay negotiations nationally with higher education institutions, including Lancaster University. The union feels that letters from local Quaker meetings making the moral case for paying the Living Wage would support their negotiations. We have written to the vice chancellors of the universities of Lancaster, Cumbria and Central Lancashire.

We have also invited Quaker schools to pay the Living Wage to their support staff and will be following this up in the summer.

In 2015, we encouraged Quakers around Britain to write to the Co-operative Group asking them to pay the Living Wage. In total, more than 500 people have now written to them. The HR Director for Co-operative Food has responded to inform us that they will pay £7.28 an hour, 8p more than the new National Living Wage but 97p less than the Living Wage outside London (see box for explanation of the National Living Wage).

Living Wage vs National Living Wage

The new National Living Wage (NLW) came into effect on 1 April. But what is it? And why has it received a mixed reception from campaigners?

The NLW, which has been set at £7.20 per hour, will see over a million workers better off by 50 pence per hour. It is expected that the NLW will rise to about £9 per hour by 2020.

With growing evidence that “in work” poverty is a major problem in the UK, any reforms which boost the income of low-paid workers are a step in the right direction. However, there are two major flaws with the NLW which mean it can only ever be a partial answer.

Firstly, despite the name, the National Living Wage isn’t actually enough to live on. You might reasonably assume that the NLW is the same as the Living Wage that Lancaster Friends and others are campaigning for. However, this is definitely not the case. The NLW is actually more than £1 less than the £8.25 per hour (£9.40 in London) that a company has to pay to become certified as a Living Wage employer.

The NLW and Living Wage are calculated completely differently. The Living Wage is based on what the general public says the average family needs to enjoy a basic standard of living. The NLW, however, is based on estimates of how much employers can afford to pay before there is a significant loss of employment.

The second criticism of the NLW is that it ignores workers under the age of 25. Workers between the ages of 21 and 25 are still only entitled to the National Minimum Wage of £6.70 per hour, with even lower rates for younger workers. Despite the fact that many of the UK’s millions of younger workers will be facing similar living costs as workers over 25, none will see any benefit from the NLW.

How can you get involved?

  • Join the Quaker Living Wage campaign by ordering a campaign pack, which includes ideas for taking action and three posters you can display in your meeting. To order, email or call 020 7663 1056. Please note that we will pass your contact details on to the Lancaster Living Wage Group so they can be in touch with you directly. You can also download the pack from
  • Encourage your area meeting trustees to work towards becoming a Living Wage employer, or to seek accreditation if they are already paying the Living Wage. You can ask Lancaster Quakers for advice and support with the process by contacting

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