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POVERTY SPOTLIGHT: The struggle to earn a real living wage
IN the latest in our series of articles on the effects of the economic slump on our communities we look at the fight for a ‘living wage’ in Dorset.
LOW paid workers and tax payers in Dorset are set to gain from a new Living Wage campaign.
It is aimed at persuading local employers to pay a so-called Living Wage of £7.45 an hour.
The current minimum wage rate for workers aged 21 and over stands at £6.19 an hour.
While this amount is set to increase to £6.31 an hour in October, campaigners are urging local businesses to sign up to the initiative.
The campaign group – called Living Wage for Dorset (LWD) – is backed by a number of faith groups, community organisations, political parties and trade unions in the county who claim that Dorset is one of the country’s low pay economies dominated by the agriculture, hospitality and service industries.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 66,000 workers in the county – over one in four – earn less than the living wage.
Mark Blunden, president of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in Dorset needed to pay their staff higher wages.
He said: “I am personally in favour of everyone being paid a fair wage for a fair days work.
“Our region needs more businesses paying higher wages to counter the fact that house prices are unbalanced against the local average wage.
He added: “Fair pay gives people good self-esteem and makes sure they are less reliant on state benefits.”
South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “In an ideal world any wage that pays more than the minimum rate must be welcomed by those who would be paid it.
“But in south Dorset so many jobs are seasonal and many employers are not well off at the moment so if you were to up the wage it could have a negative impact on both employer and employee.”
He added: “It is an aspirational idea for when times are better.
“Raising the wage would increase employer costs and that runs the risk of job loss.”
Neil Duncan-Jordan, spokesperson for the LWD campaign, said: “Low pay is associated with poor job security, fuel poverty, expensive housing costs, reduced mental health and suppressed economic demand and it debilitates the human spirit.
“These are all costs that society has to bear when things break down. But the Living Wage offers a win-win for employees, employers and tax payers.
“Employees get a higher income and see their living standards rise, employers get a workforce with improved morale, less absenteeism and increased productivity and the taxpayer saves huge amounts of money because they are no longer subsidising low wage employers by having to top up people’s earnings with benefits and credits.”
He added: “This is an idea supported by all the main political parties and major employers like Barclays, as well as the Church of England.”
RESEARCH found by Living Wage for Dorset (LWD) has also found:
- Average pay for full time workers in Dorset is at least five per cent lower than the national average with pay as low as 19 per cent lower in South Dorset.
- Women continue to earn approximately 80 per cent of the male rates, even on the lower Dorset wages.
- Of the 18 high-pay industrial sectors in the economy, Dorset’s employment is under-represented in these industries. Only 11 per cent of the Dorset workforce is found in high-pay sectors, below the national average.
- Of the 13 low-pay industrial sectors in the economy, Dorset’s employment is over-represented in these industries, compared with both the national average and the South West region.
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