Saturday, 23 March 2013

Pesach, Freedom and the Living Wage

A friend and NNLS member, Micah Gold, met with the Prime Minister on Friday. On the agenda was the Citizens UK campaign for a Living Wage. It’s a campaign predicated on the notion that it is possible to pay a full time worker, especially in London, a minimum wage and for them still to be in poverty, reliant on further government support, unable to properly provide for their own health, nutrition and improvement. It’s the eve of Pesach, some 3000 years after the Moses led the Children of Israel from Egypt and we are still telling stories of slavery – an eliding of backbreaking work for piteous reward.


Labour rights have a long tradition in Biblical and Rabbinic thought, “Do not  oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether they be of your brethren or one of the strangers in your land” (Deut 24) The Talmud makes a particular point of ensuring piece workers are paid promptly, claiming “he who withholds an employee’s wages is as though he deprived him of his life.” (BM 112a)


There are two ways to imagine as if we, ourselves, came forth from Egypt. One is to imagine that we are our own ancestors and travel through time. The other is to imagine we are our own neighbours, the hidden workforce who clean our streets and offices and care for our sick and our elderly. It’s strange that we find it easier to become over-preoccupied with the enslavement of ancient history than engage bravely with enslavements in our own communities.


New London is an employer committed to ensuring all who work to support the community, including our sub-contracted staff receive a living wage for their efforts. I commend the many organisations who have taken similar steps. And commend to all members able to make a difference to the lives of those the companies they work with employ to give this precious gift of freedom, at this time of the year especially.


May this truly be a time of Liberation for all.


More information on the Living Wage Campaign at


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