Ambitions to ensure the town’s workforce is paid enough money to live on rather than the bare minimum have been given a boost.
Business leaders met at Nestle, in City Place, on Thursday (November 6) to hear more about the growing support for the Living Wage Foundation and how it could improve the lot of their staff.
The Living Wage, which stands at £7.85 per hour compared to the £6.50 minimum wage, is calculated annually by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and is based on the basic cost of living.
Nestle recently signed up as principle partners to the Living Wage cause and called on other Crawley businesses to do the same.
Explaining the company’s reason for doing so, Jenny Lightfoot, head of reward, said: “As a business we have to create value for our shareholders but we must also create value for our society.”
The value to society was high on the list of reasons for council leader Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), who told the meeting Crawley Borough Council had been a Living Wage accredited employer since March.
Explaining how the authority was working towards making Crawley a Living Wage town, he added: “We want to see the Living Wage become the norm in Crawley.”
Cllr Lamb spoke about the difference in pay scales between people who work in the town compared to those who live here. Research has shown the higher paid jobs have not gone to Crawley residents – a fact he said had left people “struggling”.
Calling on businesses to add their names to the Living Wage list, Cllr Lamb added: “Whatever we do in terms of trying to improve basic conditions for people, some one is always going to get the lowest paid jobs in the sector.
“Those people are most likely going to come from this town and we want to make sure that everyone has a reasonable standard of living.”
Some employers questioned the cost to their businesses of increasing wages. But David Bywater, of Brighton Road-based KPMG, reported less staff turnover, less absenteeism and improved motivation and called the Living Wage “at least cost neutral, if not a cost benefit”.