Fair employment makes business sense

SIGNING UP: Cath Green signing up FCHO to the Fair Employment Charter flanked by Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive, and Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader.

AS THE cost of living continues to rise and wage levels fall it’s vital that we look beyond just bricks and mortar when growing our local economy.

As a Cooperative Council we believe in fairness and work hard to promote an ethical approach to all that we do.

That doesn’t mean we’re perfect and always get it right – far from it – but it does mean that our intent is to ensure our residents have a better and stronger future.

Building on the success of previous campaigns like Fair Energy and Fares Fair, our latest drive is to secure a better deal for Oldham workers through Fair Employment.

Our new Fair Employment Charter (FEC) reflects our ambition to do more than just reduce the number of residents who are unemployed in Oldham.

What we want to do is create employment opportunities that are fair, ethical, responsible and sustainable. That works better for everyone.

As the largest employer in Oldham – and one that has a strong emphasis on place leadership – we have a clear responsibility to positively influence and improve the conditions of employment and encourage all of the borough’s 6,000 businesses to do the same.

Put simply, those businesses and organisations who sign up to our FEC are pledging to:

1) Pay a living wage
2) Offer fair contracts and stability of employment
3) Offer access to training and support
4) Support membership of trade unions
5) Enable and encourage employees to ‘do their bit’ for the borough
6) Support local people into work through Get Oldham Working

All those pledges are important, but the Living Wage and job security are absolutely key.

That’s because there has to be an ability for workers to earn enough money to cover their bills and also have the job security that means they can access mortgages, quality tenancies and basic credit. That is the crux of what fair employment is all about.

Essentially this is about us working to ensure that when the economic recovery arrives it is genuinely for the benefit of everyone – and our work to secure the support of local businesses will be vital to the success of the Charter.

Through high profile support, an ongoing PR campaign and spreading the word at networking events with local firms we’re already underway with work to spread awareness of its benefits and the value of fair and equal employment conditions.

There is a whole programme of engagement activity ongoing right now: including work through the Oldham Business Leadership Group’s Enterprise Fund to support young entrepreneurs and grow existing organisations.

We’re also targeting the ‘Top 100 Oldham Businesses’ to gain the backing of those creating new employment opportunities, or who are strategically important to the borough, or businesses with growth potential.

We’re working across ‘Team Oldham’ with a range of business-facing colleagues from the council and Greater Manchester who focus on supporting Oldham businesses and can co-ordinate our approach to promoting the FEC.

We’re also using an internal working group to improve our business engagement so that the Charter is automatically promoted as part of the ‘business offer’ when we contact firms.

In addition we’re using our wider Business Engagement Programme which links companies into a range of support and campaigns where councillors and officers can speak to them about the benefits of supporting the FEC at both a district and a borough-wide level.

As the largest organisation in Oldham, the council can also encourage its own suppliers to join us in becoming ‘fair employers’ through responsible procurement procedures such as the Social Value Procurement Charter. This way we can act responsibly and create a positive impact across our all networks.

Working with businesses, partners and suppliers like this we will recognise the efforts of local employers and optimise the positive influence we can exert through our procurement and regeneration programmes.

I was delighted to attend the Oldham Business Breakfast at Mahdlo this morning where we heard many success stories about local businesses growing and taking more people on.

It was also great to see Cath Green, Chief Executive of FCHO (First Choice Homes Oldham) signing the organisation up to the Fair Employment Charter.

As a major local employer they recognise the importance of investing in high-quality staff and treating their workforce well. Let’s hope there are many more Oldham companies that will now follow suit.

On Oldham Council’s part, we are determined to set the standard here.

We’ve committed to introduce the National Living Wage by 2015 and are pushing hard to get staff back into the community through our volunteering programme.

Many staff have already been fundraising for the Co-operative Oldham fund and so far more than £5,500 has been raised by events like the recent Manchester 10k run and my own (poorly thought-through!) abseil down the 14 story Civic Centre tower.

This pot is for organisations that have a great idea for their community but need funding to get it off the ground. Projects that help people to get into work or promote wellbeing in the community are its top priorities.

Driving all this work is a clear recognition here that being rooted in our communities is central to being a cooperative council. We must work hand-in-hand with others to build a better borough.

Thanks for listening,

Jim

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