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New national minimum wage ‘disgraceful’ – Unite

The number of local government employees earning the national minimum wage (NMW) has been labelled a “disgrace” by the UK’s largest union Unite. 

From 1 October the NMW has gone up from £6.31 to £6.50 an hour. But Unite, which represents 80,000 members in local authorities, said it was disgraceful that the coalition had allowed wage rates for council workers to drop to the NMW level.  

Fiona Farmer, Unite national officer for local government, said: “Thousands of local government workers from today are now on the minimum wage £6.50 an hour. They will be struggling to pay their household bills. 

“It is a disgrace and a searing indictment that the government has allowed the wages of vital public servants who underpin council services 365 days a year to fall to such levels.” 

Unite told PSE that approximately 5,000 workers, out of its 80,000 members in local authorities, are on NMW. These include care workers, school support staff and cleaners. 

Farmer said that the majority of the affected workforce is made up of women (77%), many of whom work part-time. 

According to the government, the rate rise to £6.50 per hour is the first real-terms cash increase since 2008, and follows the recommendations from the independent Low Pay Commission (LPC) in March this year. 

Business secretary Vince Cable MP said: “The NMW provides a vital safety net for the lowest paid, ensuring they get a fair wage whilst not costing jobs. This year’s rise will mean that they will enjoy the biggest cash increase in their take home pay since the banking crisis, benefiting over one million people in total.” 

The number of employees earning the NMW has reached its highest level since its introduction 15 years ago, a new report published by independent think-tank the Resolution Foundation has found. The study revealed approximately 1.2 million employees currently earn the legal minimum, compared to just over 600,000 when it was first introduced in April 1999. 

Unite, along with the other local government unions, wants a £1-an-hour increase for local government workers. Its members will be taking in industrial action on Tuesday 14 October in support of better pay.  

(Image: c. Unite) 

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