Council under pressure to pay staff a ‘living wage’

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All staff on the city council should be paid the national “living wage”, campaigners said today, as new figures revealed that more than 1800 council workers are paid lower than the recommended rate of £7.20 an hour.

Council leaders have been facing pressure to introduce the measure in order to help some of the lowest-paid members of staff get a wage that they can live off.

Several other UK cities have already introduced the rate, and Glasgow City Council has announced it will increase the pay of all staff to a minimum of £7.20 from next April. The Scottish Government has also announced that it will increase its minimum pay rate to £7.20 per hour.

However, the council said there were still no plans to introduce the measure, which would cost around £3.3 million a year, in Edinburgh.

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of the trade union Unison, said: “Cities like Manchester and Glasgow have implemented it; the Labour group in Edinburgh had it as part of their manifesto and it is something we continuously pick the council up on.

“It would be a reasonable price to pay, it could be done at a minimal cost to the council. It would not only do a lot for the people that get the money but also would do a great deal for recruitment and retention of staff.”

The figures, released to the Evening News, show that the council’s corporate services department, which includes finance, payroll, IT and culture and sport, has more members of staff that are paid below £7.20 per hour than any other department, at 989.

The services for communities department, which includes bin collections, street cleaning and ground maintenance, is next with 399 staff, followed by children and families, with 253, and health and social care, with 164. The department with the fewest workers paid below the living wage is city development, which has only four.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, finance spokesman for the Labour group on the council, said: “[The living wage] not only gives dignity and a greater income to those who are poorly paid, but research also shows that those at the lower end spend more of their income on the local community.”

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city’s finance leader, said: “We had a review recently and are satisfied that the overall package of pay, pension and other benefits is both attractive and fair.

“We currently have no plans to carry out a further major review of our terms and conditions.”