Many local government workers earning ‘below real living wage’

1 Mar 19

Local government workers account for more than half of public sector workers who are paid less than the cost of living, a charity has found.

A total of 1.2 million council workers, NHS employees and university staff do not receive a ‘real living wage’ as defined by the Living Wage Foundation, according to the report by the Smith Institute think-tank

The charity’s definition of a real living wage is £9 an hour, and the report found that 638,000 workers on low pay - either directly employed or through outsourced contracts - are local government employees.

Health authorities and the NHS accounted for 335,000 workers on low pay, while central government had 69,000 and universities had 98,000.

The foundation said the minimum people 18 and above need to live on is £9.00 an hour across the UK and £10.55 in London. But statutory minimum wage, for over 21s, currently stands at £7.38 for and the National Living Wage, for over 25s, is £7.83.

Lola McEvoy, head of campaigns, at the LWF, said: “It’s simply wrong that our teaching assistants, cleaners, carers and catering staff – paid with public money – are struggling to keep their heads above water on wages that don’t meet basic living costs.”

The foundation estimated that greater investment in ‘uplifting’ these employees would see 35p from every £1 go back to the Treasury in increased tax payments.

A survey commissioned by the foundation and conducted by market research company Survation found that 64.3% of people agree that workers employed on public money through government contracts should be paid a real living wage.

Kevin Hollinrake, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty, said: “It would be an inspirational move and a welcome signal to others for the public sector to lead the way in paying the living wage, as defined by the LWF.

“It is unsustainable to continue to subsidise employers who pay lower wages through income support measures such as tax credits.”

A Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “The government has demonstrated its commitment to workers’ rights through the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years, and has helped to deliver the fastest wage growth in 20 years for the lowest paid workers through the National Living Wage.”

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