ONE in four people working in Dorset earns less than the living wage, it has been revealed today.
And Weymouth and Portland is the worst-off area, with nearly 29 percent of workers earning less than £7.65 per hour.
The Trades Union Council has analysed official figures from the House of Commons Library which also show almost 21 percent of people working in West Dorset and 24.8 percent of workers in North Dorset earn less than the living wage.
The Living Wage for Dorset Campaign has operated for the past two years and is lobbying councils and businesses in the county to increase wages for the lowest-paid workers.
Discussing the figures, Neil Duncan-Jordan, LWD campaign chairman, said: “We have an agricultural sector, we have a large social care sector, and we have a large hospitality, hotel and leisure sector.
“Those are all predominantly low paid.”
Mr Duncan-Jordan said the campaign was targeted predominantly at high street names and businesses people have heard of.
The campaign recently lobbied Dorset County Council to pay all employees £7.65 an hour. Councillors decided to wait for a national review to take place before considering implementation of the scheme.
One Weymouth bar worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he earned £5.94 per hour.
The 19 year-old added: “Even if the minimum wage was slightly increased, it would be helpful. “What gets me is that a 21-year-old worker that still lives at home earns more than me, and I have more bills.”
The latest figures have been released to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the introduction of the minimum wage, as well as TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight, which ends April 6. Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West TUC, said: “Working families are experiencing the biggest pressure on their living standards since Victorian times.
“Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom and it’s costing the South West’s economy dear.”
Barry Thompson, chairman of the Dorchester and District Labour Party, described the figures as scandalous.
He said: “I think the people who are on minimal wage should have their wages increased as soon as possible.
“There should be plans put in place to step it up, even if it is over a two year period.”
Mr Thompson said ‘big profitable companies’ have to face up to the responsibility. He added: “We’ve got to encourage them to do it.
“We have got to show that it is a social obligation.”