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Manchester businesses agree to ban zero-hours contracts

Minimum-Living wage

Manchester businesses agree to ban zero-hours contracts

Employers in city region sign charter aimed at improving wages and workers’ treatment

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham © Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Employers in Greater Manchester have agreed to ban zero-hours contracts and pay above the minimum wage as founder supporters of its “Good Employment Charter”, launching this week.

A handful will sign the charter, the brainchild of Labour mayor Andy Burnham, with more than 60 pledging to do so soon. More than 100 companies are in talks to sign the charter.

Mr Burnham said the UK needed to improve wages and the treatment of employees, amid growing evidence that many jobs are too poorly paid or insecure to lift people out of poverty. The charter commits companies to treating staff well, consulting them, and offering flexible working as well as training and routes for progression.

The first signatories include Bruntwood, the family-owned property business, and Electricity North West, which runs the regional power grid.

Those working towards joining the charter include Kelloggs, the US cereal maker, Manchester Airports Group and Lloyds Banking Group.

Mr Burnham said: “We want to support our world-leading businesses, helping them to grow and invest in our places, while at the same time making sure our residents develop the skills to succeed and find good, secure jobs that pay a real living wage.

“This Good Employment Charter is a major step towards making sure that new and existing jobs right across our city region are underpinned by a commitment to equality, fair pay, and giving employees a say in how their workplaces are run.”

Greater Manchester Combined Authority, headed by the mayor, has no power to compel companies but has given them incentives to sign. Those who do are more likely to win public procurement contracts in the city since it can take into account the social value they offer.

Only charter signatories will be eligible for investment from its GM Business Fund, which has invested more than £116m in 100-plus businesses in recent years.

The charter was designed in consultation with businesses, trade unions and the public.

The national living wage (NLW) set by the government at £8.21 an hour for over-25s is deemed by experts to be too low. So the Living Wage Foundation sets a voluntary £9.30 rate, paid by more than 6,000 employers.

Some 8 per cent of workers in Greater Manchester — about 106,000 — earned the NLW in 2018, compared with 7 per cent in the UK.

The proportion paid less than the real living wage was 23.8 per cent, compared with 22 per cent in the UK as a whole. In some areas, such as the northern towns of Wigan and Rochdale, it was as high as 30 per cent.

The median wage remains lower than it was before the 2008-09 recession. The typical worker earned 89p less for each hour they worked in 2018 than they did in 2009.

London’s mayor has a Good Work Standard accreditation scheme and there are also charters in cities including Derby, Birmingham and Liverpool but none as comprehensive as the Greater Manchester one.

Elyn Corfield, Lloyds ambassador for the North of England, said: “Supporting a productive and healthy working environment is essential in helping local businesses thrive. It is something that is central to our culture at Lloyds Banking Group. The Good Employment Charter enables us to further enhance the wellbeing of our colleagues and local communities.

“Our initiatives include providing funding for apprentices across the Greater Manchester area and delivering skills academies to help boost digital capability across the region.”

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