City workers feel pinch as average pay creeps higher

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WORKERS across Edinburgh have seen their wages increase at the slowest rate in nearly a decade.

New figures show the average take-home pay in the city is now £529.90 a week – only 0.5 per cent above the average wage last year.

Men working full-time saw an increase of 1.78 per cent, to £554.30, while women’s pay dropped by 0.9 per cent to £496.10.

Yet, despite the slow rate of growth, the average salary in Edinburgh – £27,555 – remains above the Scottish and UK figure. The latest figures represent the lowest wage increase since 2003 – the last year where there was a decline in Edinburgh.

Cuts imposed by many of the city’s biggest employers, including NHS Lothian and the council, are thought to be behind the figures as they attempt to stave off the impact of reductions in funding they receive from central government.

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of Unison, said: “There is a public sector pay freeze so that must be having an effect.

“The last figures I saw were that, contrary to the scare stories, private sector workers were getting small increases while we get nothing.”

The gender disparity – with women’s pay dropping while men’s has risen – has been blamed on the fact that a large proportion of public sector workers are women.

Mr Stevenson said: “Women are being hit hardest by the austerity measures and the pressure on the public sector.”

But business leaders say private firms have been forced to cut pay as well.

Graham Birse, managing director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have been aware for some time in the private sector, and now the public sector too, that wage austerity is the reality.

“The impact is that spending power is squeezed and there is a feeling that, if you’re in work and you have a secure job, you can still feel insecure in terms of spending power.”

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “This survey shows wage growth in Edinburgh was above the average for the ten largest UK cities.

“While disappointing, these figures are not unexpected given the weak labour market across the UK and widescale public sector pay freezes affecting all sectors.”