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Labour Day Thoughts About Living Wages

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  • By Ben Cowie
  • Posted in Community
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Labour Day Thoughts About Living Wages

Our approach to hiring means observing a local livable wage.

After celebrating the Labour Day weekend by not working, I thought it would be useful to write a bit in this space about what is a living wage, why we pay our staff a living wage, and what that means for you as a customer of the bike shop, or the espresso bar. First: we pay everyone who works at London Bicycle Café a living wage, as calculated by Living Wage London. This means that our staff can support families, participate in our communities, and live healthier, happier lives. We hope you can feel that extra love in terms of quality of service, and quality of product that we sell every day.

What is a living wage you ask? An organization called Living Wage London has calculated that a minimum wage job isn't sufficient to subsist in our cities today. Quite simply, families cannot meet their needs working for minimum wage, and the goal of paying a living wage is to make up that difference. Living Wage London has developed an infographic to show what a living wage means, and what those expenses look like for families. I'm sure you'll agree, there's nothing extravagant about a living wage, but it does allow a full-time working family to get by, and we think that has incredible value in our community. A living wage allows parents to participate in their children's lives because they don't have to go to their second job to make ends meet. Furthermore, a living wage allows adults to take responsibility for their lives, and participate more broadly in the community through volunteering, civic affairs, and social life. Building great cities is about building strong, resilient communities. By paying working adults a living wage, we help to build stronger communities in London.

Living Wage London identifies three groups that benefit from living wages, and I've ranked them below in order of my perceived importance.

  1. Community: A Living Wage can lead local residents to be healthier, happier and more contributing members of society, prompting them to take a more active role in their communities.
  2. Individual: For the individual, a Living Wage can lead to improved health, better quality of life, improved morale at work, and a rise out of poverty.
  3. Employers: For employers, a Living Wage can lead to improved productivity, increased employee loyalty, and decreased costs associated with absenteeism, training, recruitment and employee theft.

So what does this mean for our business? First off, any business is only as good as its people, and the service industry is notorious for high rates of staff turnover. Frankly, we'd rather hire fewer staff, who are passionate about their jobs, rather than deal with the revolving door in most of the coffee (and broader restaurant) business. To ensure you get our incredibly high level of service every time you come through our doors, we want to have the best possible staff, full stop. People make our business, not the products we sell. Especially with a product like specialty coffee, someone who is knowledgeable about beans (and who wants to share that knowledge with you), and skilled with an espresso machine is the difference between getting a good cup of coffee, and a great one. Our staff has worked in coffee for years, and is passionate about serving our Rosso beans as they were intended to be served: as a consistently outstanding coffee beverage.

A living wage also means that a cup of coffee from us is a bit more expensive than a cup from our competitors, and our bike shop labour rate is a little higher than the other bike shops. We hope that you see the benefits in supporting our great staff, who can better participate in our community, and help to build a better London for all of us.

Finally, we also realize that our business model is a change in expectations for most people. Asking you to pay more money for a product or service you currently get for cheaper sounds like bad business. However, we are sure that for your extra coin, we can serve you an outstanding cup of coffee, and take the best possible care of your special bike. Because our staff is fairly compensated you can feel great about supporting people in our community, too.

Thanks for supporting us, and thank you for helping to build stronger communities.

- Ben


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