One in five UK workers earn less than the Living Wage, according to new research by the GMB. As the union launches its new town hall pay campaign, it says no area of the UK is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to …

GMB at work logoOne in five UK workers earn less than the Living Wage, according to new research by the GMB.

As the union launches its new town hall pay campaign, it says no area of the UK is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the Living Wage in their communities.

For the UK as a whole, 21.7% of jobs paid less than the Living Wage in 2014. Women and part-time workers are disproportionately affected: 26.6% of jobs held by women and 42.3% of part-time jobs are below the Living Wage.

The figures are estimates produced by the Office for National Statistics based on its 2014 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

The union plans to get every local authority signed up to the Living Wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far implemented the Living Wage for their lowest-paid staff or committed to doing so, up from 103 a year ago.

In Scotland all 32 local authorities have signed up. GMB is calling on all local authorities in England and Wales to get on board and to put their weight behind local efforts to persuade more employers to adopt the Living Wage.

The Living Wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK. In November 2014 the national Living Wage increased to £7.85 per hour and the London Living Wage to £9.15 per hour (see Note 3). These estimates relate to April 2014 and to the rates applying at that time (national Living Wage £7.65 per hour; London Living Wage £8.80).

GMB national secretary said: “No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the Living Wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors. There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.

“The Living Wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits. Life below the Living Wage is a life of want and worry for millions of workers and their families.

“Town halls can’t solve the low-pay problem on their own and some in the worst-hit areas are already signed up to the Living Wage. But councils are a very important part of the picture locally, not least through their procurement of goods and services from other local employers.

“134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far agreed to pay the Living Wage which means we are more than a third of the way there. This year GMB aims to get the remainder on board. We call on the next government to earmark additional funding to local government to support this important initiative.

“One of the key recommendations of last year’s All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK was for local authorities to pay the Living Wage and use their procurement strategies to encourage local businesses to do likewise. Public-health experts are warning that people need a sufficient income in order to live a healthy life. There is also a strong business case for implementing the Living Wage because it raises morale and productivity, improves attendance and reduces staff turnover.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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