MAKE MINIMUM WAGE THE LIVING WAGE – UNISON
Karen Jennings, Assistant General Secretary of UNISON, the UK’s largest union, 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. Earlier this week (Tuesday 5 Nov) 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, Assistant General Secretary, 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.
*Public bodies already paying the Living Wage.
Councils outside of London that pay the Living Wage include Glasgow, Preston, Oxford City and North Lanarkshire.
Councils in London that have a full commitment to paying the London Living Wage include Southwark, Lewisham, Islington and Tower Hamlets. Hounslow, Ealing, Camden and City of London have also signed up but are yet to fully finalise their commitment to paying the London Living Wage.
The following education institutions pay the Living Wage – Queen Mary University of London, London School of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London Union, School of Hygiene, Institute of Education, Goldsmiths College, London business School, London Met University, University College London, University of East London, Kings College, City and Islington College, Norlington Boys School, ARK Academy, St Charles 6th Form College.
Devolved Administrations – The Scottish Government’s pay policy commits employers covered by it to pay a Scottish Living Wage of £7.20 per hour for 2012/13.
According to UNISON Scotland, 11 local authorities have adopted the Living Wage for directly employed staff and 8 others are in the process of implementing it.
UNISON has negotiated a Living Wage across NHS Scotland, and the bottom rate of pay in the NHS England is £7.24 per hour, 4p per hour above the current Living Wage rate.
In May 2012 the Welsh government announced that it has achieved the UK Living Wage rate of £7.20 per hour for directly employed staff in the Welsh Government Civil Service and the NHS.
Other public sector institutions: Greater London Authority, Olympic Delivery Authority, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, Scottish Enterprise and the London Fire Brigade.
**Research by the TUC as a part of its Living Standards Tracker has shown that rising food prices and soaring gas and electricity bills has meant that the cost of living has gone up faster for the poorest households. For example, in February 2012 the official CPI figure was 3.4% but for the poorest 10% of households it was 4.1%. The poorest households spend 17% of their income on food and non-alcoholic beverages, whilst the richest 10% spend just 10%.