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UK Retailers Cited for “Scrooging” on Living Wage

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U.K. retailers, including Primark and Marks & Spencer, are being targeted in a new campaign by NGOs to get big box retailers to pay a living wage for workers.

Activists groups Citizens UK and ShareAction are calling on British retailers to “Stop Scrooging” and pay workers enough to reasonably live on, which according to the country’s Living Wage Foundation, should be at least 9.15 pounds ($14.41) an hour in London and 7.85 pounds ($12.36) outside of the city in order to afford basic essentials like food and housing. The current national minimum wage is 6.5 pounds ($10.24) an hour, nearly 21 percent lower than the calculated, recommended living wage.

“Over the past three years, more than 1000 employers, including 19 of the FTSE 100 have committed to provide the Living Wage to all their staff, but retailers have lagged behind. Retail is responsible for 28 percent of the more than 5 million workers in the UK paid less than a Living Wage,” the campaign leaders reported.

Next, Tesco and Debenhams are also among the 12 retailers that will be called on to pay up.

Campaigners will reportedly present their urgings at Primark’s shareholder meeting Friday, and at Debenhams’ next week, asking the retailers to accommodate staff. The activists will also tweet at retailers using the hashtag #stopscrooging, publicly imploring them to pay.

“The retail industry is lagging behind,” the campaign noted on its website. “By not paying a Living Wage to their staff, many retail workers are struggling to make ends meet. So this Christmas, let’s see if we can get just one of Britain’s top 12 shops to take the first step and pay a living wage.”

The Living Wage Foundation offers accreditation to employees that pay the living wage, and a recognition scheme for third party contractors who pay their staff a living wage. When the foundation announced the living wage rates last month, director Rhys Moore said, “As the recovery continues it’s vital that the proceeds of growth are properly shared. It’s not enough to simply hope for the best. It will take concerted action by employers, government and civil society to raise the wages of the 5 million workers who earn less than the Living Wage.” He added, “Unless wages rise, a significant sector of the UK population will see themselves caught between the desire to contribute to society and the inability to afford to do so.”

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