Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A UK shareholder campaign that unions can support

Finally! The responsible investment campaign group Fair Pensions has an excellent initiative on the go - working with investors to encourage employers to consider instituting the Living Wage. More details here, the launch blurb below...
Investors bring remuneration debate ‘to the shop floor’

Investors worth over £13bn are issuing a call to FTSE 100 companies to adopt Living Wage standards across their UK operations. The broad investor coalition, headed by religious groups and philanthropists in the UK and USA, is backing Fairpensions’ JustPay! Campaign. The FairPensions campaign for Living Wages is mobilising both institutional investors and tens of thousands of FTSE 100 customers.

On 2nd May, the coalition of investors co-ordinated by FairPensions is writing jointly signed letters to the CEO’s of each FTSE 100 company asking for Living Wage standards to be applied.

With over 3.5 million workers in The United Kingdom earning under £7 an hour and 53% of poor children living in households with at least one working adult, the attention of shareholder activists is turning to the plight of those at the bottom of the salary scale.

Bill Seddon, Chief Executive of the Methodist Central Board of Finance:

“It is entirely appropriate that the Central Finance Board signs these letters to FTSE 100 companies. We look at the relationships companies have with their employees, suppliers, and service providers. That leads us to consider not only executive pay levels, but also the lowest paid in a company.”

Sister Nora Nash of The Sisters of St Francis Philadelphia, who recently filed a shareholder resolution challenging high pay at Goldman Sachs, said:

“While executive compensation spirals out of control, so does the number of people who suffer from food insecurity throughout the world. Companies have a moral obligation to be accountable, to protect the dignity of the human person and to consider equity and justice for the worker. Living Wages mean that persons who work full-time are able to support their families without charity or government intervention.”

As well as investors, thousands of individuals are set to mobilise their money for Living Wages. Through a unique tool at www.activateyourmoney.org (which goes live on Friday 29th April) people will call on companies who manage their money (banks, insurers and others) to become Living Wage employers.

Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of FairPensions said:

‘This mobilisation of ordinary people’s money is a first-of-its-kind event in this country. People are sickened by the ever-growing wage inequality in Britain’s biggest firms but we haven’t had an effective way to make our voices heard until now. The combination of major investors and members of the public working together to bring the remuneration debate down to the shop floor should be irresistible.’

FairPensions and their campaign partners are also set to bring the issue of low pay to AGMs this summer.

Ms Howarth said:

“CEOs and Chairmen of Britain’s biggest companies can expect to be challenged at their AGMs this year. We’re very much looking forward to helping shareholders bring the issue of low pay straight to the top of FTSE 100s.”

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