SOUTH Tyneside Council has confirmed plans to introduce the national “living wage” for around 1,000 staff.
A meeting of borough council last night saw members agree to move forward with the phased implementation of the Living Wage.
From April, the local authority will delete spinal column points 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the national government pay scale, so that no employee will be paid less than £7.29p per hour.
Following the implementation of phase one, the council will then look towards the implementation of the full national living wage rate (outside London) of £7.85 per hour.
Coun Ed Malcolm, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation at South Tyneside Council, said: “We are working towards permanently protecting our lowest paid workers for the future.
“This is not about giving staff pay supplement which could be taken away at any point - this is about making significant, lasting changes to our salary structure. Staff affected will not only benefit from the extra money in their wages but also from additional benefits like increased pension provision.
“As a council we are committed to the social justice agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.
“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living. However it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ongoing Government budget cuts and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”
The council set up anIndependent Wage Commission in June last year to examine the benefits and challenges of adopting a living wage in South Tyneside, which found that a living wage would make a positive contribution to reducing poverty and promoting well-being among low paid workers.
It also said that affordability would be a challenge in the current economic climate, with South Tyneside hit by Government funding reductions.
Coun Malcolm added: “Of course we would have liked to implement the full living wage with immediate effect but given the unprecedented cuts imposed on the authority we have had to take a prudent approach.
“When we have further information on our future funding, we will sit down with our trade union colleagues to consider the affordability of implementing the full Living Wage from 2016 with a view to eliminating low pay across the council’s workforce.”
Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University and chair of South Tyneside’s Independent Living Wage Commission said: “South Tyneside Council’s support for the Independent Commission’s recommendation to introduce a Living Wage will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in South Tyneside.
“In recommending its introduction, the Commission were convinced that increasing the income of the lowest paid employees would make an important contribution to reducing the scale of in-work poverty, have a positive impact on the life chances of families, young people and women and, by increasing local spending power, also boost the local economy in South Tyneside.
“The council are to be commended for their support of such an important initiative.”
Latest figures show that nearly a quarter of all workers in South Tyneside are paid below the living wage.
The living wage is set independently, updated annually, and is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK.