This week, London will celebrate not one, but two great traditions. The first, of course, is the Olympic tradition: a global reaffirmation of the values of athletic performance and fair competition. The second is the still-contested tradition of paying a fair living wage to all willing workers.
How did London become the place where these two traditions met? For the first time tens of thousands of workers that are needed to service the Games will be paid the London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour. These are the cleaners and catering staff, the retail staff, the lowest paid workers in any operation, workers that do not make any headlines.
This great achievement, which we hope other Olympic host cities will copy, happened for two reasons. First, there was an organisation that had been building relationships, developing leaders and taking on local issues for a number of years before the Olympics came to town: TELCO, the East London Communities Organisation. Founded in 1996 and now part of London Citizens, it has over 65 member organisations in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, and Redbridge, drawn from across community and faith groups.
TELCO had a breadth and depth of reach into the local communities of east London. We organised around local issues: cleaning up a noxious factory in Canning Town, fighting bank branch closures in our neighbourhoods, campaigning for police patrols at specific times to make our streets safer, and making Canary Wharf a Living Wage Zone.
With local victories under our belt and an organisation that was truly made up of, and led by, the local people in East London, we were well-placed in 2003 to come up with a list of demands for the London Olympic bid team. Our demands were that all work during the construction of the Olympic site and the Games were to be set at the London Living Wage; that 30% of jobs created would go to local people (in neighbourhoods with some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country); and that affordable homes in a Community Land Trust model were built on the Olympic Park.
The second reason these London Games have been relevant to local communities is that we found a worthwhile partner in the London Organising Committee (LOCOG). While action, tension and challenging times were not missing from this partnership, it was nevertheless a real partnership that was able to negotiate and make good on key demands. Crucial to this was the engagement and responsiveness of LOCOG CEO, Paul Deighton and Chair, Lord Seb Coe.
We have often been asked if the Olympics have brought economic benefits to east London. Our response is 'two thirds' of a 'yes'. There is no doubt that ensuring the London Living Wage for service workers during the Games will translate into more money in people's pockets. There is no doubt that LOCOG has worked very hard to help people from the host boroughs to have access to tens of thousands of jobs. We are left with the outstanding third and last piece of the jigsaw - a Community Land Trust on the Olympic Park.
And so, over halfway through these London Olympic Games, London Citizens welcomes athletes and spectators to east London. More importantly, we welcome what is the world's first ever Living Wage Olympics. We welcome LOCOG's courage to work with us on a community-based recruitment strategy that placed over 1200 people from London Citizens member organisations into work during the Games. And we welcome future engagement with the London Legacy Development Corporation to ensure that genuine, locally-governed Community Land Trust homes are part of a successful legacy.