Revealed: A fifth of workers in Peterborough below Real Living Wage

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The percentage of those in our city whose earnings are below the Real Living Wage is calculated to be 19.9pc according to figures from 2019, equating to around 22,000 people in the city.

It includes thousands of key workers dubbed critical to the fight against the coronavirus crisis by the government, such as hospital cleaners and porters, teaching assistants and carers.

The GMB trade union said the coronavirus crisis has revealed "the rock-bottom pay and miserly terms and conditions of the people we now expect to risk their health to protect us."

The Peterborough figure actually represents a drop of more than 8pc compared to comparable city figures from 2018, when there were around 32,000 workers under the Real Living Wage.

Across the UK as a whole 20.1pc of workers are earning below the Real Living Wage, with figures of 22.8pc for the East Midlands region and 18.8pc for the East.

The Living Wage Foundation rates are currently £10.75 an hour for those working within London and £9.30 an hour for those working in the UK outside London.

The scheme is separate to the statutory National Living Wage, which is the legally-binding hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over. The government raised the National Living Wage to £8.72 an hour from April 1.

The data was calculated using data sourced from Office for National Statistics releases, informed by the Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings and incorporating additional data from local authorities across the UK 

The GMB union said more than three million workers could be affected and called for key workers’ wages to be raised.

Economists have, however, urged against further wage rises before the full toll of the crisis is clear.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "It is right we ensure the lowest paid are fairly rewarded for their contribution to the economy, particularly those working in essential services during the biggest threat this country has faced in decades.

"This year's increase to the National Living Wage means we will be putting an extra £930 a year into the pockets of 2.4 million of the UK's lowest paid workers."

GMB union organiser Lola McEvoy said: “Millions of the lowest paid in the UK have been recognised as Covid-19 key workers. 

“This crisis has inadvertently shone a light on the rock-bottom pay and miserly terms and conditions of the people we now expect to risk their health to protect us.

“It’s simply wrong that over three million of the most vital jobs in our society pay so little that those doing them live with the compounding stress of falling behind with rent and spiralling into debt. 

“All key workers including cleaners, carers, teaching assistants and hospital porters, must be respected with a real living wage and decent contractual terms that reflect their undisputable societal value.” 

Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think-tank said: “Britain’s low-paid workers have been at the heart of the current economic crisis, for good and bad reasons. 

“Low-paying sectors like hospitality, travel and non-food retail have been most affected by the government’s lockdown, with firms closing and job losses mounting. 

“More positively, workers in low-paying sectors – from supermarket staff to care workers and hospital porters – are playing an essential role in steering the country through the crisis.

“Many of these workers will have benefitted from big increases in the National Living Wage, and some will have additionally benefited from wider adoption of the real living wage. 

“For public sector workers in particular, some local authorities are already living wage accredited. 

“Once we emerge from the crisis, other councils and public sector bodies should sign up too to show how much their lowest-paid frontline workers are valued.”

What is the Real Living Wage?

The Living Wage Foundation is a campaigning organisation set up to in 2011 with the aim of persuading employers to pay a Living Wage. It publishes an annual Living Wage figure and accredits employers who pay the wage.

However, there is a 58p p/h distinction between the Real Living Wage figure the foundation uses, and the National Living Wage figure used by the government.

On the Foundation's website it states: "In April 2016 the government introduced a higher minimum wage rate for all staff over 25 years of age inspired by the Living Wage campaign - even calling it the ‘national living wage’.

"However, the government's 'national living wage' is not calculated according to what employees and their families need to live. Instead, it is based on a target to reach 66pc of median earnings by 2024. Under current forecasts this means a rise to £10.50 per hour by 2024. 

"For under 25s, the minimum wage rates also take into account affordability for employers.

"The real Living Wage rates are higher because they are independently-calculated based on what people need to get by. That's why we encourage all employers that can afford to do so to ensure their employees earn a wage that meets the costs of living, not just the government minimum.

"The real Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is voluntarily paid by nearly 6,000 UK businesses who believe their staff deserve a fair day's pay for a hard day's work. Our employers pay the real Living Wage which is higher than the government minimum - they also make sure all their employees in London receive the London Living Wage. 

"Over 180,000 employees have received a pay rise as a result of the Living Wage campaign and we enjoy cross-party support. We have a broad range of employers accredited with the Foundation including 1/3 of the FTSE 100 and big household names including ITV, GOOGLE, IKEA, Everton FC and Chelsea FC."

Full list of key workers as of March 2020

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Midwives
  • Paramedics
  • Social workers
  • Care workers
  • Volunteers
  • Producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
  • Nursery staff
  • Teaching staff
  • Social workers
  • Specialist education professionals
  • Running of the justice system
  • Religious staff
  • Charities
  • Those responsible for the management of the deceased
  • Journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting
  • The payment of benefits
  • Food production, processing, distribution, sale, delivery
  • Hygienic and veterinary medicines
  • Police and support staff
  • Ministry of Defence civilians
  • Ministry of Defence contractor
  • Armed forces personnel
  • Fire and rescue service employees
  • National Crime Agency staff
  • Border security
  • Prison and probation staff
  • Other national security roles
  • Air transport
  • Road transport
  • Water transport
  • Rail transport
  • Freight transport
  • Staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
  • the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)
  • Network operations
  • Field engineering,
  • Call centre staff
  • IT and data infrastructure
  • 999 and 111 critical services
  • Postal services and delivery
  • Payments providers
  • Waste disposal sectors
  • Key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications