Cash-Rich City Freezes Pay For WorkersTagged as: culturecuts occupylondon occupylsx social_struggles solidarity workers_struggles
Published by group: Occupy London - City of London Corporation Group
As the City of London Corporation announces a pay-freeze for the most poorly paid workers in the Square Mile, publishing their City Cash Accounts is more necessary than ever.
As Christmas approaches, the City of London Corporation has announced it is to freeze wages for the most poorly paid workers in the city, claiming it as a necessary measure to help plug the gap left by central government cuts in spending and a result of the current "economic crisis".
"With living costs soaring across the capital, London's low paid need all the help they can get", Trade Union Council Regional Secretary for London, Megan Dobney said a month ago. Yet in the City of London - the richest local authority in the United Kingdom, the doors have been closed on any further discussion of an equitable pay rise for staff.
Unions had originally asked for an increase of 2.5% to protect their members from the current collapse in living standards across the Capital and to reflect the high levels of inflation which have made London the 18th most expensive city in the world, at the same time that wages for the poorest have been eroded to unsustainable levels.
However, the City refused the unions' request in a rapacious act - offering a one-off payment of £250, which for a billionaire entity that has evolved over the centuries into a zone of almost total financial freedom seems at best miserly and at worst downright cruel. And it's hardly Big Society stuff either Mr Cameron, if you're listening (not that the Prime Minister is likely to play the role of Jacob Marley to the Corporation any time soon).
Indeed, the one-off payment on offer for some of the lowliest paid employees in the City represents an increase of just five pounds a week - which for some of the Capital's poorest families doesn't even reflect the price of a week's prepaid electricity. Factor in all the other issues in the local economy such as Mayor Boris Johnson's 50% increase in bus fares and the additional cost for families (who as a result of the government's housing policy have been forced further away from inner city workplaces) and workers have been left tightening their belts to the point of suffocation.
Surely even the most privileged of us would acknowledge that a one-off payment of a few pounds a week for workers who are already earning below the bread-line is cold comfort for those struggling to make ends meet as a consequence of this Tory-led government's austerity measures?
Yet whilst the local authority has sought to pass the buck for leaving wage earners short, guests at the Lord Mayors banquet in the Mansion House this year shared no such concerns with the cleaners tidying up after them - tucking into extravagant delicacies such as filet of beef and vintage Chablis and toasting the destabilising financial markets with debauched extravagance as they dined the night away in the company of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Although the Greater London Authority (not to be confused with the Square Mile itself) claims on its website that ‘nearly all major banks in London pay the London Living Wage', this does not apply to the City of London as a local authority or to its contracted workers. All this despite the existence of the city's multi-billion pound City Cash Account (which it refuses to publish and exempts from Freedom of Information requests) and despite official recognition by the GLA that Londoners paid less than £8.30 an hour end up living below the poverty line.
In stark contrast with the GLA (where more than 3,000 employees receive the 'living wage') cleaning staff employed under contract from the Corporation are left almost destitute. In fact, the sole contribution that the foremost financial centre in the world has made to the poorest people in the Capital is an audacious attempt to blame them for what it describes as a "lack of financial literacy" - effectively accusing the poorest of themselves being responsible for the hardship that millions in London endure, rather than the financial service industries who wrecked the economy in the first place.
Maybe that comes as no surprise, but from an institution that has demonstrated the most disturbing levels of financial ‘illiteracy' ever since the big bang of the 1980s, isn't this an example of hypocrisy at its most patronising as well as being a false statement? After all, the entire country is still paying the price for the City's most recent failures. If the middle is being ‘squeezed' then those on the rungs beneath them are simply being kicked into the City's long grass and trampled all over.
In fact, the whole issue of Corporation underpay is such a cause for concern, that in an early day motion tabled by Labour back bencher John McDonnell in September this year the City was urged to raise the wages of its cleaners to above subsistence levels. However, in an act of Dickensian penny-pinching they refused, despite research conducted by Queen Mary University of London, which has estimated that the London Living Wage has lifted almost 10,000 workers from poverty since its introduction in 2005.
It's no surprise then either that the Corporation turned down the Unions' request for fair pay for wage earners. The only reason Boris Johnson supports the 'living wage', which was introduced by his predecessor Ken Livingstone, is because he realised Londoners would kick him out of City Hall if he didn't - a scenario that is unlikely to occur in the undemocratic City of London, where close-fisted corporations have voting rights over local residents and where those who work the hardest are sent straight to the treadmill while those at the top laugh all the way to the bank.
With Christmas fast approaching and many workers simply unable to budget appropriately from their meagre wage packets - with declining living standards and living costs that spiral each day - the City's 'great wage refusal' is surely a massive indictment of 21st century capitalism.
The Ghosts of 'Christmas Past, Present, and Christmas Yet to Come' are surely due to come knocking on the doors of the Mansion House in the next week but it's doubtful the Lord Mayor would distinguish them from the protestors camped outside St Pauls Cathedral, let alone pay attention to them.
So this festive season, say a prayer for the City workers who will struggle to put food on the table next year as a result of the Corporation's greed. It's time for them to publish the City Cash Accounts in full. Jacob Marley - The City of London needs you more than ever.
'Merry Christmas one and all'.