Quarter of locals earn less than ‘living wage’

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ALMOST a quarter of Wiganers are scraping by on less than the living wage.

The TUC has revealed that 23 per cent of people in the borough earn less than the aspirational £7.65 per hour: worse than the national average of 21 per cent.

The figures also show that 24 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men fall below the threshold.

Full-time workers fare better as 18 per cent of staff are paid the living wage or more, compared with 34 per cent of part-timers.

But employees in Leigh and West Lancashire are even worse hit, with 31.6 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said: “These shocking figures show nearly a quarter of people in Wigan are working long hours only to find they can’t make ends meet at the end of the week.

“Energy bills, childcare, food and housing costs are going up, but wages aren’t. It’s left far too many families in Wigan struggling.

“It’s good news that Wigan Council leads by example by paying its staff a living wage but we urgently need Government action to make large employers do their bit.

“It’s nothing short of a scandal that some big, profitable companies pay poverty wages to frontline staff but shell out huge salaries for their chief executives and shareholders.”

Across the UK, around five million people get paid less than the living wage.

Kingswood, near Bristol, tops the list of living wage black spots with 48 per cent of people working there earning less than £7.65 an hour.

The best-off area is Poplar and Limehouse, in London, with only 5.6 per cent.

North West TUC regional secretary Lynn Collins said: “The figures are a cause for concern, particularly those blackspots that have emerged throughout the region. Extending the living wage is a vital way of tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty across Britain and we believe more can be done to move people out of what are essentially poverty wages.

“That is why this Friday we will be bringing together MPs, trade unions and local authorities in a summit on the living wage.”

TUC research showed that there were 571,000 workers across the North West paid below the living wage, who if they were uplifted to the £7.65 threshold, would provide a financial boost to the public purse of £347m through a combination of increased tax revenues and lower benefit payments.

Lynn added: “There’s been a rise in the number of employers paying the living wage but government must show equal initiative.

“We need to see a far greater commitment to pay the living wage from government and employers, and modern wages which could set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more.

“What we’ve seen take place in areas like Wigan with the local authority playing a leading role in paying the living wage and encouraging local businesses to do the same shows that we can all work together to do this.

“During Fair Pay Fortnight we are asking workers to back our call to MPs to get all political parties to put decent pay at the top of their agendas in the run up to the election.”