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Issue:- 3 April 2014

Living wage blackspots emerge in North West

IN areas of the North West, 4 out of 10 jobs pay less than the living wage, the TUC reveals, to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the introduction of the minimum wage and the second week of the TUC's Fair Pay Fortnight which runs until Sunday, 6 April 2014.

TUC analysis of official figures from the House of Commons Library shows that nationally on average 1 in 5 jobs pays under the living wage; currently set at £8.80 in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK; but in some parliamentary constituencies nearly half of the people working there earn less than this with up to 40% of workers in North West constituencies being paid less than this. On average, 21% of North West workers are paid below the living wage.

Across the UK, around 5 million people get paid less than the living wage. Whilst Kingswood near Bristol tops the list of living wage black spots with 48% of people working there earning less than £7.65 an hour, Sefton Central ranks 4th in the top ten (40.4%), with Blackpool South in 7th (39.3%) and West Lancashire in 8th (38.2%).

For some women in the North West, the picture painted by the figures is even bleaker. Heywood and Middleton ranks 3rd in the top 10 national blackspots for women, with nearly half of all women being paid less than the living wage (49.7%). The constituencies of Hazel Grove (44.9%), West Lancashire (44.9%) and Knowsley (43.4%) fare little better.

The North West is not all doom and gloom according to the figures though, with brightspots in the region including Blackley and Broughton were only 1 in 10 are paid below the living wage (9.8%) and in Salford and Eccles were just over 1 in 10 are paid the living wage (12.9%). It's similar for women, with Salford and Eccles coming out on top in the North West of women's living wage brightspots with 15.9% of all women being paid more than £7.65 an hour. The North West TUC say this shows the benefit of proactive policies of local authorities in tackling low pay amongst workers, following the work in Salford and other Manchester authorities to implement and work towards a living wage.

North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said:- "The figures are a cause for concern, particularly those blackspots that have emerged throughout the region. Extending the living wage is a vital way of tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty across Britain and we believe more can be done to move people out of what are essentially poverty wages. That is why this Friday (4 April) we will be bringing together MP's, Trade Unions and Local Authorities in a summit on the Living Wage."

TUC research late last year showed that there were 571,000 workers across the North West paid below the living wage, who if they were uplifted to the £7.65 threshold would provide a financial boost to the public purse of £347million through a combination of increased tax revenues and lower benefit payments. This, coupled with the improvement in living standards for workers and their families, is more than enough reason for the NWTUC to call for employers in both the public and private sector to do more to pay staff the living wage.

Lynn Collins said:- "Working families are experiencing the biggest pressure on their living standards since Victorian times. The squeeze on pay is hurting individuals and hurting families. It's also having a damaging impact on our economy.  There's been a rise in the number of employers paying the living wage and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it – but government must show equal initiative. We need to see a far greater commitment to pay the living wage from government and employers, and modern wages Councils which could set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more. What we've seen take place in areas like Salford, Preston and Wirral with the local authority playing a leading role in paying the living wage and encouraging local businesses to do the same shows that we can all work together to do this.  During Fair Pay Fortnight we're asking workers to back our call to MPs to get all political parties to put decent pay at the top of their agendas in the run up to the election."

Those wanting to support the call for Fair Pay can sign the petition here.

Page to Stage Extends Its Deadline...

BY popular request, Page to Stage has extended its script submission window by 14 days. Final deadline is now midnight on 14 April 2014.  "There are 2 reasons for this... Page to Stage has a lot of correspondence from writers about late submissions because of the narrow submission window. In fairness to those writers who may have struggled to complete a script in the 6 weeks since the announcement, the deadline has been extended.  The neighbouring 24:7 festival has only just released details of its ten successful scripts. "We felt that we should enable those who didn't make it through the 24:7,. So we've moved the date for them, to give them time to submit." John Mc. Explained.  Page to Stage is a new writing festival that will take place between 13 and 28 September 2014 in venues around Liverpool City Centre. As well as the 10 successful 1-act-plays, there will be specially commissioned full length plays, workshops, special events and awards. Details about submissions can be found online.

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