Living wage conversations often focus on the roles and responsibilities of companies to provide for their workers, but workers and their representatives in trade unions can and should play an active role in closing the gap to living wages as well. One way the GLWC works to advance living wages is by providing workers and unions with important information about the costs workers and their families are facing to help inform their collective bargaining efforts.
In support of this approach, Anker Research Institute Senior Researcher Marcelo Delajara was a keynote speaker at a meeting of cane sugar trade unions on June 23-24 in Antigua, Guatemala. CNV International coordinated the meeting with support of the Guatemalan workers’ organizations CGTG and UNSITRAGUA. Representatives of trade unions in the cane sugar sector from all the Central American countries, plus Colombia and Bolivia, attended the meeting.
Day One of the meeting was devoted to living wage—its definition, measurement, difference with prevailing wage, and inclusion in certification schemes. The discussions aimed to help union members better understand living wage concepts and introduce them to existing research and tools they can use to make progress on CNV Internationaal’s roadmap to living wage. In their roadmap and position paper, CNV adheres to the GLWC definition of a living wage and promotes the Anker methodology as an objective estimate of living wage levels that provides a basis to reduce the gap between prevailing wages and the living wage.
In his presentation, Marcelo provided additional context and detail about the GLWC definition of a living wage and the differences and relationships between the living wage, prevailing wage, and minimum wage. He then showed how Institute researchers estimate the living wage using the Anker Methodology, which is based on widely accepted normative standards and primary price data to determine the cost of food and housing at a basic but decent level for a given region. He explained how primary information collected in the field is complemented with secondary information available from official public surveys on population, employment and household expenditures to estimate the cost of non-food non-housing goods at a level of decency. Finally, Marcelo presented and discussed a comparative table of Anker living wage estimates for Latin American countries since 2013 (13 Benchmark studies and 6 Reference Values).
Photo by Monica Garzaro (CNV Internationaal, Guatemala)
Attendees were highly engaged with the presentation and their questions help to demonstrate how workers and unions can use living wage research in their organizing and advocacy efforts. Many questions focused on the Anker methodology. How are certain local parameters estimated? Why is it useful to conduct focus groups with workers before the fieldwork? What is the impact of the provision of public services on the living wage? Does the methodology take into account the cost of childcare? How does high inflation affect the estimation and updating of the living wage? While other questions addressed how the Anker Benchmarks and Reference Value estimates can be used. Is a living wage estimate valid for workers in sectors other than the one used as the focus of the measurement? What is the living wage for single mothers? What is the relationship between living wage and living income? Finally, attendees gave their opinion on whether the available living wage estimates for their countries of origin seemed reasonable.
The Institute was especially proud to participate in this event due to CNV’s commitment to promoting the adoption of a living wage strategy along the sugar supply chain. While localized and company-specific living wage commitments are important and help push the movement forward, action at the industry level helps ensure that benefits not only reach all workers, but also lead to a fairer and more sustainable future for the industry as a whole.
CNV Internationaal is an independent foundation that protects and promotes workers’ rights based on the principles of international solidarity, personal responsibility, social dialogue and pluralism. They offer support to workers and companies with specific tools, advice, and training on how to address living wage issues in supply chains. They also offer companies access to data and information on prevailing wages, the quality of collective bargaining agreements and social dialogue in the supply chains in which they operate: clothing, cane sugar, palm oil, mining, and cashew. Read more about CNV Internationaal living wage program.