‘Poverty wages’ blighting area’s workers...

More than a quarter of jobs in North Somerset do not pay the national living wage.

More than a quarter of jobs in North Somerset do not pay the national living wage. - Credit: Archant

MORE than a quarter of North Somerset’s jobs are so poorly paid that tens of thousands of workers are unable to cover the basic cost of living, according to new statistics.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show there were 17,000 jobs across the district which did not pay the national living wage in 2014, which stood at £7.65 per hour outside of London.

This figure equates to almost 26 per cent of the area’s total number of jobs and is significantly higher than neighbouring Bristol, where only 14.7 per cent of jobs paid below the benchmark amount.

However, the statistics for North Somerset reflect the national picture, where around 23 per cent of the country’s workers (excluding London) were paid less than the living wage last year.

Although higher than the national minimum wage, which stood at £6.50 per hour in 2014, the national living wage is recognised as the minimum amount needed to cover an adult’s basic cost of living.

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The figures for North Somerset were condemned by council trade union Unison, which said too many workers were being paid what it called ‘poverty wages’.

Unison member Helen Thornton said: “The recently published figures for people earning less than the living wage, both across the UK and in North Somerset, should be a wake up call for politicians. It is completely unacceptable that a quarter of the country’s workforce should be earning poverty wages.

“A year or so ago North Somerset Unison persuaded North Somerset Council to set up a working group to look at the costs and benefits of paying the living wage. Sadly the working group concluded it could not afford to pay staff – particularly those working in schools – the living wage.

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“However, the working group also said it would review the situation within a couple of years. With the announcement of these figures, that review is now due.”

The council said it is considering paying employees the living wage before the Government introduces a compulsory living wage for all workers aged 25 and over in April 2016.

Its spokesman said: “A lot of jobs here are related to tourism, catering and hospitality – sectors which are traditionally low-paying.

“We are working with companies like the North Somerset Enterprise Agency and Weston College to make sure our workforce has the skills businesses want and need.

“We are also considering decisions which could see the national living wage introduced for all council staff before the national scheme launches next year.”

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