Most of us worked all the hours we could – including 12 hour shifts – because you never knew what hours you’d have the next week.
A colleague returned to work a few days after having a heart attack. Against all medical advice, putting his life at risk. He just couldn’t afford to wait for any benefits to come through.
I used to feel angry and powerless at the working conditions of so many in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But now, as a councillor, I can help to create change.
While we must be realistic about what local authorities can do - we can’t change employment law which sits firmly within the powers of the UK government – we do have power. We can set the tone for, and shape, the conversation in Edinburgh about what we expect of businesses, and what we expect for our frontline workers. And by becoming a living wage city, that is what we are doing.
On the Living Wage Action Group we have an amazing group of local employers who are committed to doing the right thing by their staff. And having done so, they can shout from the rooftops about the business benefits.
They report lower absence and sickness rates, a more motivated team who feel valued, and therefore value their work. And they are retaining their skilled staff. They made the decision to become Living Wage employers because it was the right thing to do – but they are passionate about persuading others, and they have the evidence to make a business case for it.
In the early days of this horrible pandemic we stood on our doorsteps and clapped for the frontline workers in our city. People who sacrificed so much to keep our city going.
As we move through into recovery, we cannot leave anyone behind. Our economy will thrive again but everyone in our city must benefit, especially those on the frontline, often earning the lowest wages.
This week, Edinburgh became accredited as a Living Wage City. Our commitment is to double the number of accredited employers. This target should result in at least 10,000 workers benefitting from an immediate pay uplift as a result of accreditation.
Staff who work for accredited Living Wage Employers have told us how much it means to them. Being able to plan for the future, not having to worry about paying their rent and bills. Feeling valued.
And as citizens there is a role for each and every one of us. Ethical consumerism is extremely powerful. During COP26 businesses have been clambering to tell us all about their green credentials. Let’s ask them about their Fair Work credentials too.
Being a Living Wage City will transform lives. But we all have a role to play in making it happen. Together, if we use our soft power, if we expect more from employers, we can make Edinburgh a city where all work, is fair work.
Cllr Kate Campbell is the City of Edinburgh Council’s Fair Work Convener