This week’s Two Voices asks: what’s a real living wage and why has the issue become so important?
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein says…
The debate on minimum/living wages could do with a dose of Jewish perspective, which regards any individual who lives in poverty or need as a failing of the community. While wider society tends to treat those who might need assistance with distaste and suspicion, the Jewish community has prided itself in communal provision to all in need.
Poverty is a stigma and stigmas humiliate and dehumanise. A Jewish perspective seeks to rehumanise and restore personal dignity to the individual. It is not out of charity but tzedakah – out of a matter of justice – for each person is created in God’s image.
A living wage is one that is just, allows individuals and those who depend on them to be self-sufficient and to have self-respect, dignity and a positive outlook for the future.
For the Jewish community it is matter of shame when our fellow Jew lives in poverty and degradation. So too is it shameful for one to receive a wage that still leaves him reliant on benefits or other support – it is counter-intuitive.
A ‘Jewish perspective’ does not mean that we Jews must resolve the detail in one way but Jewish voices might come from a single foundation – the rehumanisation and dignity of each individual is the concern of a society that is BIG.
Aaron Goldstein is rabbi at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue
Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich says…
When I came home after being away on a work trip, my son, in his pre-teenage years, would ask: “Did you buy something for me?” Feeling guilty about being away and not giving him the attention and love he deserves, buying him some nice chocolates was the least I could do.
I have a wonderful job but often I think of those parents who can neither see their children because they have to work long hours to provide for them nor afford to buy them a gift.
In Leviticus 19:13, we are commanded to treat people who work for us justly: “You shall not exploit your neighbour and you shall not rob. An employee’s wages shall not stay through the night with you until morning”.
It feels fair when one is paid well for one’s job. It is important to show one’s appreciation for people’s work in a business or organisation and paying them the living wage – £7.85 p/h across the UK, £9.15 p/h in London – is only fair.
It is even more important to pay unskilled workers a living wage, so as a society we stimulate people to work rather than be on benefits.
To date, more than 1,600 businesses are accredited living wage employers.
If you can afford it, please join in.
Tanya Sakhnovich is rabbi at Nottingham Liberal Synagogue and a member of Citizens UK