Low pay

MQT on 2016-03-16
Session date: 
March 16, 2016
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Why has the number of Londoners paid less than the London Living Wage increased under your mayoralty?


Answer for Low pay

Answer for Low pay

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thanks, Fiona.  I said quite a lot of this in answer to Stephen [Stephen Knight AM].  There are a lot more accredited Living Wage employers in London, 280 more just in one year.  We have 839 now.  The manifesto target was for 250 and so we have way exceeded that.  The number of people who are paid the London Living Wage has massively increased.


However, I totally accept your point that the number of people who are not paid the London Living Wage has also increased.  That is something that we discussed at some length.  There are various reasons for that.  There has been substantial downward pressure on wages.  We need to analyse what is going on there in the labour market.  My answer is always and everywhere that people should pay the London Living Wage.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I am pleased that we finally agree on the actual statistics, which is something that we have raised and debated time and time again.  I also appreciate that you have stated publically that you support the Living Wage campaign, but if this session were a school report you would be getting an ‘F’ for fail as you have clearly failed low‑paid Londoners, as my colleague Stephen Knight AM indicated. 


As you will be aware, the Assembly’s Economy Committee recently summonsed your correspondence on the Living Wage following your refusal to release this in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request from Stephen Knight’s office.  We have taken legal advice on what we can say today and so I will be referring only to the letters revealing your dismal record in the broader sense. 


It is quite clear to me from reading the correspondence that you have not been taking your role in the campaign as seriously as you have been suggesting.  You could have made much more effort over the past eight years and potentially we could have been having a different discussion today.  You have sent just 265 near‑identical mail-merged letters to companies, only one in four of which has responded.  You have hand-signed only a couple of these personally and appear to have agreed to personally meet only one of these companies.


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  That is not true.


Fiona Twycross AM:  You have offered chief executives of some of the world’s biggest companies meetings with relatively junior - although no doubt competent - members of staff from City Hall.  Do you agree that you could have tried harder?


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  No.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Even if you could not be bothered yourself, was it not even worthy of the attention of your Deputy Mayors or senior advisors? 


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You are being very unfair.  I have met many heads of the big companies in this city, the big supermarkets, the big hotel groups, and I have made the same point to them in person that I have made in my letters.  You are being a little bit unfair on the success that we have had.  To have 839 accredited Living Wage employers when we set a target of 250 is not bad going.  It has gone up by 218 just in the last year.  Tens of millions of pounds more are now being paid to some of the poorest families in London.  That is very important for us. 


As I say, we have to look at the causes of low pay generally in this city.  What is going on?  The Government is bringing in a new Living Wage from April 2016, which will be a great thing for the whole of the country.  That will make a substantial difference.


Fiona Twycross AM:  We are talking about the London Living Wage, not the pseudo National Living Wage.  Currently the pay of only around 30,000 Londoners is linked directly to the Living Wage while, as you acknowledged earlier, around 1 million people are paid below it.  You say that you have taken this seriously and you have taken a serious note in this but this is not reflected, as you know and as I know and as everybody who has read the correspondence knows, in this correspondence.  You say that you took this personally and seriously, but you personally took it upon yourself to support and undertake a number of high‑profile visits and meetings on behalf of highly paid workers in London, for example when you went to Brussels in person to defend bankers’ bonuses. 


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I did not defend ‑‑


Fiona Twycross AM:  When you boasted in New York about the number of billionaires we have in London, you revealed your true self.  The fact is, is it not, that you were not interested enough in low‑paid workers even to sign the letters yourself?


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Rubbish.  You are talking total rubbish.


Fiona Twycross AM:  You did not even sign the letters yourself.


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am sorry.  I find your remarks offensive because we have worked unbelievably hard to expand the Living Wage.  We have had many events in this place to promote the Living Wage and many events across the city.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I find your record offensive, as I am sure low‑paid Londoners do.  Chair, I have finished with that.


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  The record of this mayoralty in promoting the Living Wage has been outstanding.  The unit in City Hall that is behind it has done a fantastic job.  I thank them and I congratulate them.  To have boosted it by 800% or whatever it is ‑‑


Fiona Twycross AM:  By the number of companies, not by the number of Londoners paid the Living Wage. 


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ is a huge achievement.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Chair, I have finished with that.


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is companies big and small.  We have Aldi, we have Lidl, we have supermarkets, we have football clubs, we have pubs ‑‑


Fiona Twycross AM:  He is just  diminishing it, Chair.




Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am very proud of what has been achieved.  As I say, we have big supermarkets now paying it.  That was never thought possible a few years ago.  We have football clubs.  We have businesses large and small paying the London Living Wage and the campaign is snowballing the whole time.  Do not knock it, Fiona.