A clear message emerging from the recent ETI Members Living Wage Workshop was the need - and determination - to move beyond discussion and take practical, collaborative action.
On Friday 17 January, over 50 ETI members – companies, NGOs and trade unions – met to get up-to-date on the living wage debate, to share what they are doing and what they have learned on the issue, and to decide how best to move forward together in improving wages. They agreed that they need to work together so that workers and their families will be able to earn enough through regular wages to meet their basic needs and have some discretionary income. In other words, to earn a living wage.
After a series of enlightening talks from Professor Ken Mayhew of Oxford University, Professor Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead of the Fair Wage Network and Jenny Holdcroft of IndustriALL, lively discussions took place on what is currently being done to improve wages, what is working and what is missing in the efforts to move towards living wages.
Out of these discussions emerged a real determination to move forward together on living wage; to collaborate more openly with each other, with suppliers and with other organisations; to gather accurate data and use it effectively; to jointly lobby governments and industry on wages and to support the ability of workers themselves to voice their needs and realise their rights.
But we also recognised that our efforts alone would not be enough to resolve the issue of living wages for workers worldwide. For this, a global perspective is needed, national laws enshrining minimum wages that are living wages, strong institutions to support workers' rights and an economic environment that will enable living wages to become – and remain – a reality. This can be seen as a beginning to move the debate from 'what is a living wage?' to 'what are the structures and systems that need to exist to deliver meaningful wage growth?'.
Over the coming months and years, ETI will be supporting its members to develop, share and grow their knowledge – born from practical experience - about the most effective ways to help workers to improve their wages not just in members own supply chains, but across a sector. Through this website, public events and resources we will share this knowledge with the wider ethical trading community and we will use our networks and influence to keep the living wage debate alive and moving in the right direction.