Sadiq Khan came to office promising to be the “most pro-business Mayor ever” while at the same time emphasising the need to tackle inequalities such as low pay and the gender pay gap. In his manifesto section “sharing the rewards of prosperity” the Mayor pledged to:
- Make London a Living Wage City.
- Establish a team dedicated to economic fairness.
- Create a new business compact based on exemplary standards in pay and employment rights for workers, which would also seek to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to work and gain skills.
- Work to smash the glass ceiling.
- Promote the uplift of London weighting.
These were pledges to be applauded, but radical steps are now needed to give them substance. With recent figures showing top executives earning 145 times more than the average worker and that almost 700,000 jobs in London (18 per cent) still pay below the London Living Wage, the Mayor can and must be bolder. He can push business to do more, especially where Londoners are suffering from irresponsible business practices. He can’t do it all on his own and he can’t legislate, but he can help Londoners get better at holding business to account.
One thing that would help is an objective way to evaluate the contribution our largest employers make to London. Imagine if the Mayor published and ranked meaningful data on how the biggest companies contribute to our boroughs and communities. Such information would provide the transparency and accountability needed to bring pressure more effectively to bear on employers and help create the economy and communities London really wants to see. The Mayor, trade unions, councillors and vitally, Londoners as a whole, would be put more in charge of their relationship to capitalism, by being better able to understand how capital is contributing to, or indeed in many instances, exploiting people and place, be that at a time of growth or one of crisis or recession.
The Mayor has launched his business compact, entitled the Good Work Standard. He is now in a position to lead London by researching, ranking and recommending how the capital’s largest 500 firms (by numbers of employees) contribute to our city. Here’s what he should do now:
- Use the agreed definition of his Good Work Standard as a basis for developing a key set of research metrics.
- Engage companies in the approach to create good work and good employers more broadly
- Lets companies know they have one year before he will launch his first ranking.
- Undertake the ranking and publish it – using his platform to praise and call out as appropriate.
- Follow this up with a wider set of organising, campaigning and win-win approaches for employer and employee as the data is released.
- The Mayor and his team could lead this campaign (with others) to motivate all involved to create London as a place of Good Work, Good Employers.
If the Mayor now acts in this way it would be a significant, democratic and useful step to take. It could create a radical way forward for the common good of Londoners.
Jamie Audsley is a Labour councillor in Croydon. Image is from Mayor’s Good Work Standard document.