Why the Real Living Wage means more today than ever 


  • Employment and Skills,
  • Workplace

07 November 2023

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Why the Real Living Wage means more today than ever 
By Gary Binder, IWFM London Region Chair 

I’m an advocate of stopping and looking back to see how far we have come. We are all so busy in our lives, looking at what’s next that we don’t stop, breathe and review the journey we have had.  

This week marks Living Wage Week and I write this as the Chair of the “Make London a Living Wage City” (MLLWC) - Service Provision Action Strand. So, how did I get here and what does it mean to me?  

I was initially asked to join the MLLWC Action Strand for two reasons. I am the Chair of the IWFM London Region and as the National Relationship Director for Churchill Group, a national soft services provider, to that end I was ideally positioned to support the group. Soon after I become the Chair of the group. But why get involved? 

Coming from a career in recruitment and before moving into the service provision side of FM, I have always believed you should be paid a fair amount for the role that you do. Then when moving to the soft services side of facilities it was highlighted even further.  

For years the cleaning and security sectors have been “the hidden workforce”, a team that would ensure your safety from either an environmental or physical point of view. The largest workforce within the sector, yet often scraping by on minimum wage (the race to the bottom didn’t help), holding down multiple jobs or excessive hours. And naturally, always unsocial hours. 

Covid highlighted the importance of their roles and responsibilities, yet they were still, even then, not classed as “key workers”. To everyone that appreciated what they did for us, they were. This downgrading was unfortunately indicative of the plight of this sector with the under-valuing and lack of support for these roles.  

The good work that the Living Wage Foundation has done over the years has seen a significant drive in advancing the pay rates and working conditions for this hidden workforce.  

I could never understand why this workforce wasn’t supported and why you wouldn’t want the best for your team. It’s no surprise that companies that commit to the Living Wage or beyond, see a far better retention of their colleagues and a dedication in their roles. 

In the current economic environment, with the cost of living rising over the last couple of years, it’s more important than ever that we maintain the support of this drive. We have seen significant increases in both the NLW and the RLW, yet the basic costs are also increasing; these increases have just been swallowed up. So, the drive to add value to these roles, have just been lost in the crisis.  

The good news is the number of people earning the RLW or more is continually increasing, which is fantastic. But how much better would it be that the National Living Wage becomes defunct, because everyone is paid a Real Living Wage, a wage that makes them feel valued and enables life without fear or dread.  

So, paying the Real Living Wage isn’t just the right thing to do- it’s the best thing you can do.