Speaking to the Annual Delegate Meeting in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Paddy Lillis – Usdaw Deputy General Secretary says:
“One in every eight workers in the UK, that’s 3.8 million people, are now living in poverty. A million more than a decade ago. This rise has been fueled by high rents, cuts to in-work benefits and low wages. While the economy has been recovering, the real value of wages has still not risen to the level it was before the financial crisis. For the first time since the 1860s, we’ve seen a decade of lost earnings. Workers in low paid, insecure employment have been left behind by the Government and that is why improvements to minimum wage rates are an urgent, and crucial, priority for this Union.
The Government’s National Living Wage is not a real Living Wage. Who can honestly say that £7.50 an hour is enough, in 2017, to afford a secure home, or to support a family? The real Living Wage is currently £8.45 across the UK and £9.75 in London. This rate is set each year by independent experts, and it takes into account the real cost of living. Employers can sign up to it voluntarily, and nearly 3,000 businesses have done so far. The Government’s National Living Wage is compulsory, but it is not based on the cost of living. It is based on a percentage of average earnings. This means that when earnings growth is flagging overall, so will the National Living Wage.
“Another area where the National Living Wage falls short is in its coverage. It only applies to workers aged 25 and over. Workers aged between 21 and 24 are 45p an hour behind and those aged between 18 and 20 are £1.90 an hour behind. That’s 25% less that a worker, who is legally an adult, could be paid for doing the exact same job, just because of their age. I’m sure many of our young members would tell you, quite clearly, that they face all of the same costs as their older colleagues. There’s no 25% discount on their rent, their gas bill or their weekly shop and their managers certainly don’t expect 25% less work from them than they do from their older colleagues. It is completely unjust that the law allows their employers to pay them less, simply because of their age.
“I’m very proud that Usdaw has led the way on abolishing youth rates in many of our agreements and our negotiating committees will be working hard to protect and improve our young members’ pay in the future too. We will also be campaigning for the National Living Wage to be paid to every worker at the age of 18.
“Crucially, the Government needs to invest greater resources in raising awareness of workers' minimum wage rights and enforcing them. There needs to be a strong message from Government that non-payment of the National Living Wage will not be tolerated. Enforcement should mean prosecution with targeted investigations into all sectors where there is a risk of underpayment.
“We need a positive commitment to improving living standards. The Labour Party has pledged a minimum wage of £10 an hour if they are elected, one of the key reasons why our union will be campaigning for a Labour victory in the general election.
“Whatever the outcome of the election, we will continue campaigning and lobbying for a £10 an hour minimum wage; for a wage that truly delivers for low-paid workers.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fourth biggest trade union with nearly 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion