WOMEN who work part-time in South Tyneside are among the lowest paid in the region.
New figures released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reveal 46.7 per cent of women are doing jobs for less than the living wage – £7.65 an hour – in the borough, the fourth-highest figure in the North East.
The union is now calling for local authorities to lead by example by becoming a living wage employer.
South Tyneside is awaiting a report of its independent living wage commission.
The news has not come as a surprise to South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who says it is “symptomatic” of the cost-of-living crisis.
She said: “We have a rise in zero-hour contracts which the government are not acting upon, and they are not taking action against the minimum wage.
“People who are in work are falling short of the minimum they need to survive. And all the while the cost of living continues to go up.
“There has been an increase in the number of people living in poverty.
“I have seen a rise in the number of people who have come to my surgery asking for information on the food banks.
“These are people who are working, and who 10 years ago would not be asking about food banks.”
The MP added she would hope more would be done to address the gender equality pay gap, and hold companies to account.
Across the UK, around two in five part-time jobs pay less than the living wage, with women accounting for almost three-quarters of Britain’s six-million strong part-time workforce.
The MP said: “The Labour party are advocates of the living wage, and I would hope if South Tyneside Council receives the report recommending a living wage, the local authority would take this on board.”
TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “In-work poverty is growing across the North East, and it’s often women who bear the brunt of low pay. The living wage was created so that work can provide staff with a basic standard of living. But in places like Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland, the majority of women working part-time are earning nowhere near this.
“Clearly, women would gain most from a greater take-up of the living wage by employers, but everyone benefits from higher wages; partner, families, the economy.
“Councils can lead the way by becoming living wage employers themselves.
“Working together with local employers and unions would maximise the impact of the living wage and help tackle in-work poverty throughout the region.”
Coun Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation at South Tyneside Council, said: “As a council, we are committed to the fairness agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.
“That is why we commissioned an independent report looking into the impact of introducing the Living Wage which is to be presented soon.
“We took evidence from a range of employees, including low-paid women, and that will inform the Commission’s response.”