A thousand South Tyneside Council workers will begin to be paid a national living wage from next year, it was confirmed today.
The authority is the first in the North East to commit to working towards the implementation of the full national living wage value of £7.65 per hour – £1.34 above the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.
The historic move is a major financial boost to borough cleaners, school lunch supervisors and catering assistants in schools, residential homes and leisure facilities – 95 per cent of whom are women.
And it means those workers, who are currently paid £6.54 an hour, will eventually see their hourly rate rise by £1.11.
Pending full council approval in December, from April next year the process of introducing the wage on a phased basis will begin.
Today Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for Resources and Innovation, said there was a “compelling case” for making the change, which will cost the authority an estimated £700,000 to implement.
“As a council we are committed to the social justice agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.
“This is not about giving staff pay supplement – this is about radically changing our salary structure.
“We are working towards permanently protecting our lowest paid workers for the future. Staff affected will not only benefit from the extra money in their wages but also from additional benefits like increased pension provision.
“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living.
“However it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ongoing Government budget cuts and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”
The council established an Independent Wage Commission in June last year to examine the benefits and challenges of adopting a living wage in the borough.
That commission found that a living wage would make a positive contribution to reducing poverty and promoting well-being among low paid workers.
Now the local authority will look to implement a phased introduction of the new hourly rate.
From April 2015 its the lowest paid employees will receive £7.11 per hour – representing an immediate increase up to a maximum of 67p per hour.
Coun Malcolm added:
“Of course we would have liked to implement the full living wage with immediate effect but given the unprecedented cuts imposed on the authority we have had to take a prudent approach.
“When we have further information on our future funding, we will sit down with our trade union colleagues to consider the affordability of implementing the full Living Wage from 2016 with a view to eliminating low pay across the council’s workforce.”
Rachel Reeves MP said:
“It’s brilliant that South Tyneside council is making this important commitment. It shows that even in tough times when there is less money around we can make choices that help build a fairer society.”
Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University, chair of South Tyneside’s Independent Living Wage Commission, said:
“South Tyneside Council’s support for the Independent Commission’s recommendation to introduce a Living Wage will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in South Tyneside.
“In recommending its introduction, the commission were convinced that increasing the income of the lowest paid employees would make an important contribution to reducing the scale of in-work poverty, have a positive impact on the life chances of families, young people and women and, by increasing local spending power, also boost the local economy in South Tyneside.
“The council are to be commended for their support of such an important initiative.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 17 Oct 2014
Oone thousand low-paid council workers in South Tyneside are today a step closer to receiving a ‘living wage’.
The move – recommended by an independent commission – leaves South Tyneside Council needing to find £700,000 to cover its wage bill if it presses ahead with the plan next year.
The commission has recommended South Tyneside pays its lowest paid workers a minimum of £7.65 an hour – £1.34 above the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.
This would help about 1,000 cleaners, school lunch supervisors and catering assistants in schools, residential homes and leisure facilities – 95 per cent of whom are women.
It would mean those workers, who are paid £6.54 an hour, would see their hourly rate rise by £1.11.
It is highly unlikely any change will come into force before April next year – because the council’s budget for the financial year has already been set.
The decision was labelled “historic” today by Merv Butler, the branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, which has long campaigned for the introduction of the living wage.
Mr Butler would favour an immediate introduction of the increase but, if that’s not possible, he will be pushing for a “stepped approach” – with phased rises in the rate paid per hour over the next few months.
“This is an historic day for Unison. We have campaigned long and hard for the council to introduce the living wage. The recommendations of the commission bring that a massive step closer.
“Our task now is to get the council to bring in the living wage as soon as possible, and we have a clear plan on how they can do this.
“The report shows that 1,195 job holders are paid below the living wage and nearly 95 per cent of these are women.
“This proposal will make a real difference to our members. It will put money into the local economy as well.”
Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, will now work over the coming months with finance officers to look to identify funding for the change.
“As a council, we are committed to social justice and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.
“This is why we welcome the commission’s report into the impact of introducing the living wage in the borough.
“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living. However, it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ever decreasing budgets and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”
Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, described the living wage as a “priority” and a chance to take struggling families out of poverty,
“It is going to be hard.We don’t have a hidden pot of money but, through innovative measures savings are being made. This is a priority and we need to find a way of funding it.”
Coun Malcolm added:
“We would like to thank Professor Keith Shaw and his commission members for the wealth of work they have done on this issue.
“They have produced a very comprehensive report exploring what we can do as an employer to lift more people out of low pay and support local families.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 05 Sept 2014
The number of women in the UK who don’t have a job has soared to record levels under the Tory-led coalition government, a new report reveals.
According to figures from the Fawcett Society, a leading charity who campaign on advancing equality rights for women, nearly one million (946,000) remain unemployed while others struggle to get by on poverty wages.
The charity is calling on the government to back its campaign for all workers to be paid the living wage, which currently stands at £8.80 per hour in London and £7.65 per hour across the rest of the UK.
The minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is set to increase by 19p per hour to £6.50 from October 2014. The rate for 18-20 year-olds will increase to £5.13 an hour and £3.79 for 16 and 17 year-olds. Apprentices will get a meagre 5p extra, taking their earnings up to just £2.73 for every hour worked.
The definition of ‘low pay’ (two-thirds of the median full-time average salary) set by the OECD currently stands at anything below £7.71 an hour.
Deputy Director of the Fawcett Society, Dr. Eva Neitzert, said:
“From cleaners, dinnerladies and care assistants to supermarket workers and admin assistants, women undertake crucial work that helps to hold the fabric of society together.
“But rather than benefitting from the economic growth we are seeing, the situation for these women is declining. We urgently need to tackle the low wages paid to women by increasing the value of the national minimum wage.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added:
“The alarming shift in the UK’s job market towards low pay and casual contracts is hitting women hardest and risks turning the clock back on decades of progress towards equal pay.
“Unless more is done to tackle poverty wages and job insecurity, women will be excluded from the economic recovery.”
Gloria De Piero, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said:
“It’s clear that this isn’t a recovery for working women. Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, more women are struggling on low pay, in insecure jobs and not getting the hours they and their families need.
“Only a Labour Government is committed to tackling the scandal of low pay by significantly increasing the minimum wage, providing incentives for employers to pay the living wage and delivering on the promise of equal pay for women and their families across the country.”
Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan said the pay gap is too high, but argued: “It is narrowing – and for full-time workers under 40 is almost zero.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 Aug 2014
Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in a bitter disagreement over pay and pensions, as part of the biggest day of industrial action seen in the country for years.
More than 400 schools in the region were fully or partially closed as teachers downed tools during the walk out.
Joining them were home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.
Picket lines were mounted outside schools, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition’s public sector policies.
Nationally, around 1m workers took part in the 24-hour strike, which unions claimed was one of the biggest in the country in years.
The Cabinet Office blamed union leaders for “irresponsible” strikes.
A spokesman claimed most public sector workers had reported for work and “nearly all key public services were being delivered as usual”.
The biggest issue in dispute is pay, after ministers froze public sector salaries in 2010 and introduced a 1% cap on pay rises in 2012 which remains in place.
Thousands joined a march through Newcastle City Centre campaigning against cuts, changes to pensions, pay and work conditions.
Chants of “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard as the crowd of teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants led the procession from outside City Pool, near the Civic Centre, as part of the one-day walk-out with teachers also highlighting concerns over children’s education and firefighters raising their fears that cuts risk lives.
Among those lending their support was Blaydon MP Dave Anderson who said: “It’s a really good turn-out. I’m impressed and spirits are really high.
These people do a tremendous job day in day out and we are not looking after them properly. It’s time we did.
“It’s time we said enough is enough. They are at the end of their tether and a cry for help.”
The procession of workers, carrying banners and placards and flanked by mounted police, headed towards Northumberland Street then through the throng of shoppers onto New Bridge Street for speeches on the blue carpet area outside Laing Art Gallery.
Most were delighted at the turnout.
Shirley Ford, 50, an administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, said: “I was also on the picket line in South Shields this morning and when you’re in a small school it’s hard to sense how everyone else is feeling so this is great to see – and the sun has come out!”
Andy Nobel, executive member for the FBU in North East which is the middle of its own industrial action following the loss of 300 firefighter posts and station closures in the wake of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “Public support during our whole dispute has been fantastic.
“When they’ve heard our arguments there hasn’t been a great deal, if any, adverse public reaction.”
A further eight days of action is expected to be announced.
One firefighter, who did not want to be named, said the chief concern of colleagues was pensions not pay.
Meanwhile, teacher Tony Dowling, 57, the members’ secretary for Gateshead NUT, said: “The main reason is the pension and pay but I’m really on strike because I care about the education of the children.
“Michael Grove is making the jobs of teachers impossible and ruining children’s education.”
Cheers greeted the speakers at the rally who included Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s deputy regional convenor for public services alliance, who called the national turn-out “the second biggest turn of action since the end of the Second World War”.
Gordon Thompson, a councillor from Newsham ward in Blyth Valley, known for his refusal to pay his Poll Tax, was among the supporters at the rally and stressed the importance of making a stand.
And a familiar face lending his support was local actor Joe Caffrey, accompanying his father, retired Unison member Joe Caffrey senior, who was standing up for service providers whose pensions are taking a hit.
The 69-year-old from Whitley Bay said: “I’ve got a pension but I’m here for the people still working, particularly the young people.”
Picket lines were also formed outside some of the region’s schools and council offices, including Newcastle’s Civic Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions, in Longbenton.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market was closed to the public for the first time in two years because of the industrial action.
Reports suggest there was around 5,000 people at today’s march.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 July 2014