A living wage hub

This week Heathrow became the UK’s first airport to be accredited as a living wage employer. Parmjit Dhanda says the knock-on effects will be huge

The fight for more jobs and better wages has been intrinsic to the values of the Labour party throughout its history. As we look to the future, those same values remain part of Labour’s DNA.

This week’s announcement that Heathrow has become Britain’s first living wage-accredited airport is not just great news for the country and local people – it also sends out a strong signal to airlines and others that they should follow suit.

Heathrow’s move means higher wages for thousands of workers currently employed at Heathrow and will also benefit the future workforce that will be needed to build a new runway, securing 180,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships for our economy.

The airport has agreed to pay all its employees at least the London living wage, which has increased to £10.20 an hour. By the end of 2020, 3,200 people who work at the airport will be on the higher wage. The airport, which employs 76,000 people locally, estimates 500 people from Hounslow, 450 from Hillingdon and 250 from Ealing will benefit from the new wage.

Becoming an accredited living wage employer will mean direct employees in Heathrow’s supply chain will also transition to the living wage, helping to attract and retain talent at the airport.

But just as significantly, when a huge employer like the country’s only hub airport takes a step like this then those companies who are not in the direct supply chain will also feel the pressure to do the right thing and pay the living wage. 

This important announcement can be the first step in a journey rather than simply being the end of the matter. Politicians want to see good employers use their influence and Heathrow’s vision goes far beyond accreditation. It will seek to influence retailers and commercial partners by using London living wage as a factor in future commercial discussions.

I think most of us in the Labour movement will agree that if you want to sell your goods, then it is right to say: ‘I am only going to provide you with a place to do it if you pay your staff the right rate.’

This announcement will benefit 3,200 people and their families, but longer term it will help change the way that many other employers behave – ensuring that many more benefit from a proper living wage.

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Parmjit Dhanda is executive director of Back Heathrow

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