Rewarding the Rest

In which The Author reads some good news

For the last two evenings, the BBC Radio 4 news programme PM has run lengthy features on the issue of bonuses for senior bankers. Yesterday, shareholders of Barclays Bank conducted a noisy protest at the company’s plans to increase bonuses by ten per cent, in the face of falling profits. Today, RBS has abandoned its plans to pay bonuses amounting to twice the annual salary, after being warned that it would not be approved by the Treasury.
Neither yesterday’s news nor tonight’s bulletin has mentioned another item from the UK financial sector. It’s important news, and will affect many more people than the privileged few who work in the City and pocket these massive bonuses. Kindly allow me to redress the balance. Today’s i newspaper carries the following story on page nine:
The Nationwide Building Society has become the first big high-street name to sign up to the campaign to promote the “Living Wage”.
The company pledged to pay all of its permanent staff, contractors and temporary workers, at least £7.65 an hour, or £8.80 in London, well above the national minimum wage of £6.38.
It is one of the biggest employers to support the Living Wage, taking the total to more than 650 since the launch of the initiative in 2001.
A survey commissioned by the building society showed that 16 per cent of people earned below the Living Wage, increasing to one in five in lower social grades. The poll of more than 1,500 adults revealed that fewer than one in 10 believed they could live reasonably on the minimum wage. People in lower social groups said if they were paid a Living Wage, they would spend the difference on food, paying bills, or saving.
Rhys Moore, of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “We are delighted to welcome Nationwide to the … movement as both principal partners of the Living Wage Foundation as an accredited employer. As the UK’s largest building society, this move brings the Living Wage to high streets across the country, and showcases that the best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the Living Wage now.
“The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.
“The poll shows the benefits of the Living Wage are felt first and foremost at home, from feeding the family to saving for a rainy day.”
I’ve had an account with the Nationwide for a few years now. I was persuaded to sign up by the very fact that they’re still a building society. The UK once had a host of these mutually-owned institutions, but during the 1980s and 1990s they were picked off one by one by the high street banks. Individual customers gained a nominal shareholding after the takeovers, but the big winners (needless to say) were the fund managers and investment bankers. Since the Nationwide (amongst some others) stood firmly by its founding principles, I decided that they were the place for me.
I’ve always been very pleased with their service, and their staff in the branch are invariably cheerful and very helpful. It’s good to know that they’ll have another good reason to smile in the near future.
However, doesn’t it reflect our society’s collective worship of Mammon that this good news merited not a single mention by the BBC?
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