Union says poverty pay and high prices makes life a misery for many working families

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UNISON AGS Karen Jennings will today call for the Living Wage to become the minimum wage for all UK workers, as she gives evidence to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in London.

The union is calling for the minimum wage to be raised in stages towards the Living Wage from 2013, and for it to be increased substantially this year to reflect the high cost of living.

The Living Wage is the minimum that workers need in order to provide themselves and their families with the essentials of life. On Tuesday the new rates were set at £8.55 per hour in London and £7.45 outside of the capital.

UNISON has waged a long campaign for employers in both public and private sectors to make the Living Wage their bottom rate. A growing number of local authorities, Higher Education Institutions and Further Education colleges have signed up.

In its submission to the Low Pay Commission, which sets the minimum wage rates each year, the union warns that high living costs and stagnant wages are making life a misery for many hardworking families. Research has also shown that recent cost of living hikes have hit those on the lowest wages hardest.

Austerity for low paid workers is also self-defeating for the government warns the union. Boosting incomes for low paid workers, who are likely to spend their money in local shops and businesses, would provide much needed fuel for our struggling economy.

It would also help to cut the benefits bill. It is estimated that the government currently pays between £6 and £7 billion a year for in-work benefits to support workers paid below the Living Wage.

Karen Jennings said: “The minimum wage is an important floor; but it is sadly not high enough to give workers and their families a decent standard of living.

“Poverty pay and high prices mean daily misery for hardworking families; the choice between heating and eating, and a struggle to afford even basic essentials. Meanwhile, pay for those at the top is spiralling ever upwards.

“Making the Living Wage the Minimum Wage would not only help families, but would help us all by cutting welfare spending and inequality. It is time for the government to take a bold step towards fairness and make the Living Wage the UK’s minimum wage.

In its submission to the Low Pay Commission the union is also calling for:

–       Better enforcement of the National Minimum Wage, especially in agencies or industries with large numbers of migrant workers, and for employers to be named if they do not pay the minimum wage.

–       For the Low Pay Commission to be responsible for setting Living Wage rates.

–       Further guidance and enforcement action to prevent employers using interns as unpaid labour.

–       For the Low Pay Commission to investigate payment systems in home care – including travel time payments for workers.

–       The development rate for 18 to 20 year olds to be brought into line with the full national minimum wage rates, and for 16 to 17 year olds to be entitled to the development rate, with a view to harmonising it with the full adult rate over time.

–       For the rate for apprentices to rise to match existing youth rates.

 

 


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