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Many local key workers earning below real living wage

Created on 05/04/2020 @ 10:48

Hundreds of key workers in Welshpool and throughout Montgomeryshire considered critical to the response to the coronavirus crisis are earning below the so-called “real living wage", data suggests.

The real living wage is a voluntary scheme devised by the Living Wage Foundation.  It is calculated independently from the government and is based on costs such as food, clothing and household bills. 

Data compiled for MyWelshpool by the Local Democracy Reporting Service found 10,000 people in Powys are earning below the real living wage, or 24.6% of the those working in the county.

The figures haven't been broken down to the north and south of the county.

Key workers include those working in agriculture and retail in the area, in addition to a wide range of occupations from delivery drivers to nursery nurses, some hospital staff and others.

One in five UK employees earn below the Living Wage Foundation rates, including hundreds of thousands of key workers including hospital cleaners and porters, teaching assistants and carers.

The Living Wage Foundation rates are currently £10.75 an hour for those working within London and £9.30 an hour for those working in the UK outside London.

The scheme is separate to the statutory National Living Wage, which is the legally-binding hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over. It is reviewed every year just like the National Minimum Wage (for under 25s).

The government raised the National Living Wage to £8.72 an hour from 1 April.

The GMB union said the coronavirus crisis had shone a light on the “rock-bottom pay” of the people “expected to risk their health to protect us”.

It says more than three million workers could be affected in the UK and called for key workers’ wages to be raised.

Economists have, however, urged against further wage rises before the full toll of the crisis is clear.

The Low Pay Commission, an independent body which advises the government, warned it might be necessary to apply an "emergency brake" on long-term plans to continue to lift the statutory minimum. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "It is right we ensure the lowest paid are fairly rewarded for their contribution to the economy, particularly those working in essential services during the biggest threat this country has faced in decades.

Bryan Sanderson, chair of the Low Pay Commission, said: "This year's increase to the National Living Wage means we will be putting an extra £930 a year into the pockets of 2.4 million of the UK's lowest paid workers."

“Many of the nation's key workers – in, for example, the care sector, agriculture, transport and retail – are low-paid, are continuing to work in very difficult conditions and will benefit from today’s increase. 
“At the same time, the Government has introduced a comprehensive package of support for employers to lessen the impacts of these extraordinary circumstances.  

Nye Cominetti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation think-tank said:
“Britain’s low-paid workers have been at the heart of the current economic crisis, for good and bad reasons.

“Low-paying sectors like hospitality, travel and non-food retail have been most affected by the government’s lockdown, with firms closing and job losses mounting.

“More positively, workers in low-paying sectors – from supermarket staff to care workers and hospital porters – are playing an essential role in steering the country through the crisis.

Data and information supplied by the Local Democracy Reporting Service

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