A MAJOR campaign has been launched to persuade all Wigan bosses to pay their staff a “living wage”.
And Wigan Council has set an example by awarding scores of its lowest workers a rise to take them to the recommended minimum amount.
Despite the financial pressure of Government cuts, town hall chiefs have agreed to support an earlier campaign by councillors and will now start to pay the new rate of £7.20 an hour - a pound more than the National Minimum Wage - from April 1.
This follows the local authority’s decision to give an increase in wages to its lower paid staff from the start of the current financial year.
Council Leader Lord Smith said that after its previous uplift payment last year, just 211 staff employed by the Council or Wigan and Leigh Homes were not currently above the Living Wage level.
And the ruling Labour Group wanted to send a message that the impact of the financial crisis “should not be carried on the shoulders of the lowest paid” in our community.
Lord Smith said: “I hope this example set by the Council will be copied by other local employers.
“Where we contract services out we will check the compliance of firms bidding for council work.”
Former Makerfield MP, Sir Ian McCartney, who as a minister and introduced the National Minimum Wage, said he was delighted to hear of council’s commitment.
He said: “Well done Wigan Council! The Living Wage and National Minimum wage must work together to end poverty pay.
“I had to battle against all the doubters who claimed Minimum Wage would be bad for the economy but it just helped millions have a better life.
“Banks have spent many millions on their bonuses and really did cause disaster so I think this modest pay raise will be a great benefit.”
Deputy council leader Coun David Molyneux said: “We are still proud of what Ian achieved and are pleased to have his support.
“We do believe that a move to pay the Living Wage would have a good impact both on those who benefit and on the local economy.”
Wigan Coun Damian Edwardson, who is also a Local Ambassador for Save the Children, launched the campaign for the local authority to support the Living Wage with town hall colleagues, Couns Paul Collins, Mike Crosby, Mike McLoughlin, Lawrence Hunt, Jo Platt and Chairman of Shevington Community Centre, John Ball.
Shevington with Lower Ground ward member Edwardson said that he had been honoured to be asked by Save the Children to be their local ambassador for the Living Wage in Wigan.
He said that he hope the campaign launch begins the process for the council to follow other North West local authorities in establishing a living wage which would help to support its low paid families while tackling child poverty.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, who is now working with borough businesses to give more support to the lowest paid, said: “In such tough economic times it’s a big ask for Councils to pay the living wage to employees.
“But councils who have done it have found it boosts the local economy, and improves staff retention, productivity and morale.
“I’m pleased to back this campaign, which will have substantial benefits for Wigan.”