What is it?
The responsible investment charity ShareAction and the alliance of community organising groups, Citizens UK, have launched a joint campaign to pressure high-street retailers into giving their workers a merrier Christmas by agreeing to pay them the living wage.
The campaign, called #StopScrooging, is using its website to ask shoppers to take to Twitter and ask the UK’s 12 biggest retailers – Sports Direct, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Next, Primark, John Lewis, Argos, Carphone Warehouse, B&Q, Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and Morrisons – to pay their staff an hourly wage of £9.15 an hour in London or £7.85 outside the capital.
On the campaign website there is a video that shows a magician going into M&S, John Lewis and Tesco and swapping price labels on shelves with spoof labels that encourage the retailers to pay the living wage. There is also an action pack for people to download, which gives them templates to print out so they can go into shops and do this themselves.
Offline, Reverend Graham Hunter, who is a Citizens UK campaigner for the living wage, plans to go to the annual general meeting of Associated British Foods, which owns Primark, on 5 December in London and ask a question about fair pay. Dressed as the ghost of Christmas present, Hunter and his supporters will hand out flyers to shareholders as they arrive at the meeting, which will contain information about why paying a living wage makes financial sense for businesses.
The charities say that 18 of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies are now accredited living wage employers, but large retail companies are lagging behind. Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, says that investors have been asking "more insistent questions" over the past six months about why retailers aren’t paying the living wage to their employees. She says the fact that Christmas is a time when people’s finances are traditionally more strained also makes this a timely message
What has the response been so far?
Since the campaign was launched on 1 December, more than 10,000 people have visited the campaign’s website, and 100 people have downloaded the action pack. More than 700 people have tweeted at retailers with the hashtag #stopscrooging, and the comedian Rory Bremner has shown his support for the campaign online. In addition, two of the retailers, Argos and Primark, have said they will meet the charities to talk about the living wage.
Third Sector verdict
This is a clever and well-timed campaign, which plays on people’s anxieties about over-spending on the high street at Christmas. It’s also good to see results so soon after the campaign was launched, with two of the 12 retailers agreeing to a discussion on the matter.