Lidl says staff will get Living Wage but it isn't a Living Wage employer. Here's why
To obtain accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation, like Ikea, Lush and Burberry, Lidl would have to ensure outsourced staff get the living wage as well as those it employs directly
Hot on the heels of the announcement of new Living Wage rates by the Living Wage Foundation, supermarket Lidl, as it usually does, was quick to trumpet how it would raise the pay of over 17,000 Lidl employees in response.
We’ve hiked wages by up to 30 per cent in just four years! Aren’t we great?
That's what the chain's press release said. OK, I added the last part, but you get my drift.
It is indeed welcome news. But there is a caveat. By contrast to, say, cosmetics outfit Lush, furniture retailer Ikea, luxury goods emporium Burberry, and a number of smaller outfits, Lidl is not among the sadly very limited number of retailers that are accredited Living Wage employers.
To secure that status you have to ensure that outsourced workers, who perform functions that in an earlier age would have been performed by employees, enjoy the same benefits.
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Given the dizzying number of functions businesses employ other businesses to handle for them, that matters.
You can hardly call yourself a living wage employer if you go out and sub contract with people to provide cleaners, or temps, or security guards, or trolley collectors, who pay poverty wages.
The aforementioned retailers have proved that you can still turn a nice profit while being accredited living wage employers. So have Aviva, Barclays, Nestle, Nationwide, KPMG, all of which (I imagine) engage in some level of outsourcing. So it shouldn't be impossible for Lidl to do the same.
Tess Lanning, director of the Living Wage Foundation, says the campaign exists “to tackle the rising problem of people paid less than what they need to makes ends meet”. That problem is a big one in Britain. Too big.
She adds: “To do this we ask real Living Wage employers to ensure all staff, including their sub-contracted staff, are earning a wage they can really live on. In many supermarkets this means valuing the outsourced cleaners, security guards and trolley collectors as an integral part of the workforce alongside the cashiers and store managers.”
As a former trolley collector myself, albeit before anyone had thought to outsource that function, I heartily endorse that sentiment.
The Foundation says it would be more than happy to work with Lidl so it could become the first accredited living wage supermarket in Britain. I urge the company to take up the opportunity to do so so that next year I will be able to give the announcement it puts out at this time every year an unqualified endorsement.