Campaigners in Weymouth and Portland are calling for an end to poverty wages in the area – now the lowest in the UK.

The group, Weymouth and Portland Action on Wages (WeyPAW), has been established to investigate the causes of poverty pay and to promote policies for change.

The campaign was launched with a lobby at Weymouth College of South Dorset MP Richard Drax and members of the local Chamber of Commerce. The MP was guest speaker at a special lunch held at the college.

Campaigners talked to students and staff at the college, who expressed their concerns about the wages crisis, especially for young people seeking their first job.

The next step for the campaign is a public meeting and discussion in Weymouth, being held tomorrow.

Speakers at the meeting will include GP and Weymouth councillor Dr Jon Orrell, health campaigner Ros Kayes and Nick Clarke from Middlesex University.

Cllr Orrell said: “The whole campaign is about the low wages in Weymouth.

“Last year we saw out bus drivers on strike to protest that they were being offered lower wages than colleagues in neighbouring towns.

“The justification being that wages were low in Weymouth. Sadly food and bills are not lower.

“The campaign calls for an end to zero hours contracts and for all employees to receive full in work benefits such as sick pay and holidays.

“The problem is acute in Weymouth and shows itself in health outcomes.

“We need new well paid jobs in renewable technology to replace the ones lost when the Navy base closed.”

Mollie Collins, chairman of South Dorset Labour Party described the wages in Weymouth and Portland as a “truly shocking situation”.

She said: “We need urgent action, especially to ensure that our young people leave school and college with the chance of getting a decent living wage in their own area.”

In a response to the campaign, Mr Drax said: “Everyone at the chamber meeting wanted the same as the people standing outside in the cold. We are doing our best to attract more businesses to Weymouth and Portland.

“We have a lot of exciting developments happening such as HeliOps on Portland, the enterprise park at Winfrith, which will be creating 2,000 jobs over the next 10 years and there is a lot happening on the Granby Industrial Estate which is currently thriving.

“We need to extend the summer season jobs and put more investment into the town centre.

“It’s time for us all to get together and to work together for the benefit of all those who live and work in Weymouth and Portland.

“At the same time as campaigning we need to be rallying round to get everyone together and to create some positive action.”

WeyPAW’s meeting will be held tomorrow at the Centenary Club on Jubilee Close from 1pm.

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