Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Living Wage

Paying a Living Wage is an important part of social justice. As of April 2016, Living Wage Rates were as follows:

The Living Wage in London : £9.40 an hour
The Living Wage in the rest of the UK : £8.25 per hour
The Government "National Living Wage" for those aged 25+ : £7.20 per hour

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Citizens UK comments on the introduction of the "National Living Wage" :
“We welcome the move by government as a key milestone in the Living Wage campaign, pioneered by Citizens UK leaders in 2001 as a way of tackling the scourge of low pay. Thousands of workers, students and businesses have championed the campaign since then.

"Citizens UK encourages those employers who can afford to go further than the legal minimum to work towards paying the Living Wage – which reflects the cost of living here in the UK. Citizens UK applauds the 2,300+ employers who have signed up to the voluntary rate of £8.25 in the UK & £9.40 in London. This includes a third of the FTSE 100 companies, and high street names such as Ikea, Nationwide and Nestle. This has impacted on the families of over 80,000 employees.


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2015 : Citizens UK report
A report by Citizens UK comments that :

"With over 5.24 million people in the UK, 22% of all employees, earning less than the Living Wage, the Treasury is forced to step in and top-up incomes with in-work benefits, such as working tax credits, so that workers can afford a basic standard of living despite being in employment.

The research shows that in the case of some of the UK’s largest retailers, businesses are benefiting more from the Treasury in wage top-ups than they are paying in tax. Tesco’s low pay culture is supplemented by the Treasury who had to top up their pay rates to the sum of £364 million in the last year, whilst pay for each low waged worker each year at the retail giant Next costs the taxpayer approximately £2,087.

The research sheds substantial light on the retail sector as ‘sales & retail assistants’ make up the largest group of people working on less than the Living Wage across the UK economy at 760,000 people. Despite posting profits of £3.8 billion between them, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s combined, cost the UK taxpayer well over £700 million as the public purse subsidised the wages paid to their staff. If the top three retailers all paid the Living Wage, the Treasury would save over £200 million."

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2014 : Ikano
Ikano run store cards and manage real estate. Their Corporate Responsibility profile explains "Ikano acts as a responsible company, a good employer and a good neighbour. We treat our partners, customers and co-workers in a responsible way".

However, while internally they pay everyone above the cost of living, they refuse to do anything about the 4 cleaners they contract well below the living wage, despite community organising champions NottinghamCitizens repeatedly raising the issue with them (more on NottsCitizens work here).

Ikano sponsors Nottingham's ROBIN HOOD half marathon, refuses to pay those working for it enough to live on.

So the ever wonderful people at NottinghamCitizens are going to try and help IKANO out by asking people to sponsor a team of Robins to run the Robin Hood half marathon on Saturday 28th September - with the money raised being taken to Ikano's head office and handed over personally to their head of operations, asking that it's used to finally pay these people their due, with any money left over will be used to support Living Wage Week actions in Nottingham this November.

George Gabriel, from Nottingham Citizens, has set up a donation page at :

https://www.justgiving.com/George-Gabriel1

BFTF is proud to have given a donation and hopes that you, dear reader, can either donate or send an email to IKANO to let them know what you think of their policies. Perhaps you might want to let some of IKANO's "famous friends" know how your goodwill in their brands is affected by what IKANO is doing. BFTF certainly will be....

Update 2nd Oct: IKANO have buckled! The JustGiving page reports that :
"BIG NEWS! IKANO HAVE AGREED TO PAY A LIVING WAGE TO THEIR CLEANERS. HURRAH! BUT OUR WORK ISN'T DONE, THEY'RE HOLDING OUT ON ACCREDITATION MEANING THERE'S NO GUARANTEE IN 6 MONTHS THE CLEANERS WON'T BE BACK BELOW THE POVERTY LINE. THAT MEANS WE'RE STILL RUNNING FOR ROBIN!"

2014 : Background
Back in 1998, the freshly elected Labour Government introduced the Minimum Wage (currently £6.50/hr (£12,675 pa Gross for a 27.5hr week. However, whilst the Minimum Wage has increased faster than prices, it is still not enough to actually live on. In many cases, recipients still have to rely on welfare to meet the gap between what they are being paid, and the minimum the need to live on. Ed Milliband has commented on this effect :
"What is happening at the moment is that we are spending billions of pounds subsidising employers who are paying low wages, billions of pounds in benefits, tax credits and housing benefit...For every extra pound that the minimum wage goes up, some estimates say that we will save 50p in benefits and extra tax revenue. "
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[Warning : BFTF sees a Ref Flag whenever a politician says "some estimates" so you may want to treat the specific value of 50p with a pinch of salt]

The wage people need to actually live on is knows, unsurprisingly, as the "Living Wage". It is currently £8.80 in London and £7.65 elsewhere in the country.

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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Woodland Trusty Stuff Sep 2014

Been reading the Autumn 2014 edition of "Broadleaf", the magazine of the Woodland Trust and a number of items caught BFTF's attention...

1) Forestry Legislation and Tree Planting
2) The Fortingall_Yew
3) The Theydon Bois Earthwork
4) The Hucking Estate

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1) Forestry Legislation and Tree Planting
The Editorial by Beccy Speight, Chief Exec of the Woodland Trust, mentions that the Government is failing to meet its own tree planting targets in all four UK countries.

Also, following the widespread public anger over the proposed sell-off of the Public Forestry Estate in 2011, the Government stated in 2013 that :
"We can now confirm that we intend to establish a new, separate Public Forest Estate management body to hold the Estate in trust for the nation..." "...This will take time...but we want to be clear about our ambitions for it and the direction of travel we intend to take over the coming months."
So the Woodland Trust was disappointed to see no mention of the body in the 2014 Queens Speech.

Actions:
Went to the Defra Website to find contact details of The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP (current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). The website informs me that I lots of ways of following them, so looks promising.

DEFRA keen for people to "follow" them

Get to the page of the Secretary of State and the links below. Can you spot the one saying "contact"? No, me neither.

Nice to see a "Contact Me" link. Oh, hang on...

Notice a link at the bottom of the page asking if there is anything wrong with the page:

Questions to which the answer is "Yes"

To which BFTF responds :

Feedback Mode ON

There is a generic email address for DEFRA, but BFTF doesn't want to contact DEFRA, BFTF wants to engage with the top banana, the big enchilada, the head honcho, the big cheese - in short, BFTF wants to email the Rt Hon Liz Truss.

But with no other option available, sends this to "DEFRA" :
FAO Rt Hon Liz Truss Dear Secretary of State Rather saddened to hear that the government has missed its targets for tree planting so badly and also disturbed to hear that the Government intends to use "management through private finance" and the track record for PFI is poor, contracts are inflexible and they leave financial millstones that todays children, mine included, have to pay when they grow up. So my questions to you are : a) Why has tree planting lagged so badly behind targets during this government? b) What guarantee can you give that Forestry Commission or similar bodies will not be tied down with inflexible, poor value, long term PFI millstones?
And also this
"FAO Rt Hon Liz Truss etc etc It was great to see the Government accepting the key points of the Independent Forestry Panel and, in particular, committing in 2013 to putting in place a "Public Forest Estate management body to hold the Estate in trust for the nation" But why no word on this on the most recent Queens Speech?"


Lastly, on this item, contacted four local Imams suggesting that this was an issue that the Muslim community should be active on.

Update 2nd Oct: Received the following response from DEFRA regarding the second of the above questions:
"The Government stands by its commitment to establish a new public body to hold the public forest estate in trust for the nation, as set out in its Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement of January 2013.

Good progress has been made over the past year in developing plans for the necessary legislation for the new public body. However, there were many proposals competing for the limited space within the Fourth Session programme and the proposed forestry measures could not be accommodated.

The Government will continue to work towards the objective of establishing the new body over the coming year, so that the detail will be in place for a new Government to introduce legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows after the 2015 General Election.
"

Update 12th Oct: Received the following response from DEFRA regarding the first of the above questions:
"The Government does not have any general national target for tree planting and so has not missed any. It has set out a policy ambition to expand the area of woodland in England from 10% to 12% by 2060. This would mean creating around 260,000 hectares of new woodland in that period at an average rate of around 5,000 hectares a year. However, the Government’s Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement of January 2013 made it abundantly clear that achieving this aspiration would depend on both the Government and private land-owners working together. The Government is playing its part in pursuing this challenging ambition by providing grant-aid for woodland creation through the Rural Development Programmes. Last year this supported the creation of almost 2,700 hectares of new woodland. We look to private land-owners and businesses to also invest in new woodland to help achieve the increase we all want to see.

The Government does, however, have one tree planting target. In 2010, we said that we would plant one million new trees across England by 2015, many in our most deprived urban areas. So far, 804,346 trees have been planted as part of the Big Tree Plant (http://www.forestry.gov.uk/england-bigtreeplant ) and we are firmly on track to achieve our target by the end of March next year.

As regards your suggestion that the Government intends to introduce some form of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) in the forestry sector, I can confirm that the Government has no such plans."

2) The Fortingall Yew
Fascinated to read about the Fortingall Yew which, according to Broadleaf "experts reckon [has] stood at Glen Lyon for up to 5,000 years", although Wikipedia puts the age at nearer 2,000 years. Pretty awesome either way! More on ancient British Trees at The Tree Council

The Fortingall Yew, looking good !

3) The Theydon Bois Earthwork
Pretty darn awesome, and rather huge, earthwork sculture next to the M11, by Richard Harris in collaboration with Greenarc and the Woodland Trust

4) The Hucking Estate

Issues regarding forest preservation are generally presented in the form of :
a)Things used be good like this [examples of how wonderful it used to be]
b)But now things are bad like this [examples of how bad it is now]
c)But we think if these actions are taken [list of THINGS TO BE DONE]
d)In a few decades we might have a better situation [Possibly rose tinted view of future]

So discussion becomes one sad story after another, and examples of how interventions 20-30years ago have now borne fruit, as it were, are somewhat harder to come by.

Chuffed, therefore, to read about how plans put into action in 1997 to regenerate the Woodland Trusts Hucking Estate have, in the intervening years, slowly but surely transformed the woodland into an area the has improved creepy crawliness (especially fungi, beetles and larvae); more and a wider range of butterflies; return of bats (!); coppiced areas possibly providing a revenue stream; and biodiverse grassland and heath (using land that was previously farmed). All good stuff!

5)"Rewilding"

This post seemed the most appropriate place to mention this image of "rewilding" in Scotland (see also here), via Derbyshire Green Party:

Rewilding in Scotland

"On the left of this image behind a 7ft. fence, a young forest is emerging thanks to the efforts of rewilding charity Trees For Life. In time, this woodland will store carbon, improve soil quality, harbour wildlife and provide opportunities for local communities. The same cannot be said for the landscape on the right of the image."

Location - Glen Affric, Scotland
Image via: James Shooter/scotlandbigpicture.com
Image and text originally posted on their Facebook page

Related Content
Tree Planting at Highfield Cemetery
Introduction and Interview with the Woodland Trust
Independant Panel on Forestry Report
Some stuff on sustainability, especially printing
Sustainably sourced notebooks
Interview with the Forest Stewardsip Council (FSC)

Image Sources
Fortingall Yew