Celebrating Workers’ Rights for International Workers’ Day 2024

Today we celebrate International Workers’ Day as the movement towards fair wages, hours, and working conditions continues.

The History

We celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1st to celebrate the labour movement and the working classes. The celebration takes place on the 1st of May to commemorate the pivotal events in Chicago in 1886 [1] when workers striking for an eight-hour day at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company faced violent attacks from police, which sparked more protests and rallies across the city. The protests in Chicago became the catalyst for efforts worldwide to enshrine better working conditions.

The annual celebration commemorates the sacrifices of these early labour activists and the ongoing pursuit of their goals. From those original struggles over 8-hour workdays in Chicago, International Workers’ Day has broadened to champion all worker causes from fair wages to health and safety standards across the globe.

As we recognise the hard-fought victories that secured rights and protections for workers, we at Living Wage Wales want to look ahead to tackle current challenges like low pay and insecure hours.

What labour struggles do we currently face in Wales?

Low pay is still an issue impacting thousands of workers across Wales. According to recent figures, almost 13% of workers [2] in Wales still earn less than the real Living Wage. In a modern society, it is simply unacceptable for a full-time job to not provide enough income to cover basic needs. We must ensure that all hardworking individuals can earn a living wage that allows them to afford a decent standard of living.

The Living Wage Movement started at a meeting in East London in 2001, where Citizens UK brought together local institutions to talk about the issues affecting their communities and one issue that came up repeatedly was low pay. They introduced the London Living Wage in 2005 and the movement spread nationally by 2011 with an additional UK Living Wage rate introduced.

In 2012, Cynnal Cymru became the Living Wage Accreditation partner in Wales. Since then, we have made great strides with over 570 accredited Living Wage employers across the country. From small businesses to large corporations, public sector bodies to third sector organisations, these employers are showing true leadership by paying at least the real Living Wage  to their employees.

The campaign for a real Living Wage has ensured hundreds of thousands of workers are earning a wage they can live on, not just the government minimum. But millions of low-paid workers are also struggling to get the hours they need to make ends meet. Wales, in particular, is one of the nations impacted most by work insecurity. Across the nations and regions of the UK, Wales stands out as one of the areas where job insecurity is most prevalent, alongside the North East (24%) and South West (21%) of England. Over 21% of workers in Wales are in a form of insecure work and almost 11% of these face the dual challenge of low pay and insecure work.[3]

What can employers do to change this?

We’ve reached 10 Living Hours Employers in Wales!

For International Workers’ Day this year, we wanted to highlight the additional Living Hours accreditation scheme focussed on providing secure work hours as well as a Living Wage. The Living Hours Employer scheme recognises organisations that not only pay their staff a real Living Wage but also provide them with secure, predictable working hours each week. There are over 145 Living Hours Employers across the UK, and 10 of those are Welsh Employers.

The predicament of insecure contracts and inconsistent schedules creates immense stress and disruption for too many workers and their families across Wales. Accredited Living Hours Employers commit to providing:

  • At least 4 weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period.
  • A guaranteed minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise).
  • A contract that accurately reflects hours worked.

We encourage all employers who believe in fair work standards to work towards becoming accredited Living Wage and Living Hours employers. Together we can create a more equal, prosperous, sustainable Wales, that puts workplace equality at its core.

Join the growing list of employers that show they care about the wellbeing and working rights of their employees. Contact the Living Wage Wales team at livingwage@cynnalcymru.com.

The real Living Wage rates are calculated annually based on living costs by the Resolution Foundation and Living Wage Commission.

[1] People’s History Museum | May Day: A People’s Holiday https://phm.org.uk/blogposts/may-day-a-peoples-holiday/

[2] Richardson, J & Witteveen, A (2024) Employee jobs below the Living Wage: 2023. Available at: Employee Jobs Paid Below the Real Living Wage 2023 | Living Wage Foundation

[3] Richardson, J (2023) Precarious pay and uncertain hours: Insecure work in the UK Labour Market. Available at: Precarious pay and uncertain hours: insecure work in the UK Labour Market. | Living Wage Foundation

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