Would You Like a Living Wage with That?

McDonalds food and drink

There is a horribly widespread belief that the people who serve you french fries, sell you tickets at the local multiplex, pour your morning cup of coffee, and ring up your purchases at every high street shop somehow don’t deserve a living wage. Customer service work is generally perceived to be neither difficult nor worthy and because we are a workforce who are ‘unskilled‘ and replaceable, our contractual hours are generally low and our pay packets usually are never more than a stones throw from the minimum wage.

Workers at Picturehouse Cinemas and McDonald’s are amongst those to most recently strike for what all workers deserve: a living wage. The minimum wage currently operates on an age-related sliding scale where the lowest rate for adults is £5.60, however the living wage is currently £8.45 (£9.75 in London). There is such a massive discrepancy between these amounts largely because worker’s wages haven’t risen in proportion to the ever rising cost of living.

Or if you want a want a simple explanation using something we all understand, Freddos (the true indicator of economic climate in Britain) are far more expensive but wages haven’t risen at the same rate.

Every worker regardless of the field that they are in deserves a living wage merely by virtue of being alive and therefore accruing living expenses. In addition to this, living within your means shouldn’t mean constantly having to abstain from any and all indulgences. After all, we all deserve to have nice things occasionally. Keeping this in mind, the McDonald’s Workers McStrike demands of a wage of £10 an hour really doesn’t seem remotely unreasonable–however many people seem to think that this request is somehow entitled or excessive.

A capitalist society creates a ladder that you are obliged to climb in order to afford to live. The people who say that they ‘worked hard’ in order to warrant the extra zeroes on the end of their paycheques forget that being alive isn’t a luxury that you should have to ‘work hard’ to afford. They also forget that food service, hospitality, retail and customer service are hard work.  Standing on your feet for hours at a time, working unsociable hours, and dealing with demanding members of the public is often incredibly difficult work that is too often discredited. Despite this, a living wage isn’t something you should be awarded based on the difficulty or necessity of your work–it should be something that you are deserving of by sheer virtue of being employed. All workers deserve living wages.

People shouldn’t be working full time and still living in poverty, yet this happens so frequently as most companies prioritise their profit margins over the wellbeing of their workforces. Living Wage employers are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule, and I am certain that more customer service workers will strike now that McDonald’s and Picturehouse employees have made this seem like a tangible reality. I am still earning less than the living wage and working every hour of overtime that comes my way–but I feel like the tide is turning. However, I’m fairly certain that widespread change will only come about if companies see that it’s just as important to their customers that they are a living wage employer as it is to their employees. So I encourage you to show your solidarity with striking workers, spend your money at places that pay a living wage, and demand that other companies follow suit.

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