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AN INCREASE in the minimum wage will go ahead on April 1, the government confirmed today – despite a think tank’s opposition to the measure in the light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The right-leaning Institute for Fiscal Studies had questioned whether a rise in the statutory minimum hourly rate from £8.21 to £8.72 “still makes sense” given the chaos caused by Covid-19.
But even after the increase the minimum wage will remain below the Living Wage Foundation’s target of £10.75 in London and £9.30 elsewhere — figures based on the minimum a worker needs to get by.
General union GMB said that the new minimum would be insufficient for workers’ needs.
“We always welcome wage increases, especially for the lowest-paid workers, but the national living wage isn’t a real living wage,” said GMB organiser Lola McEvoy.
“It’s not enough for anyone to live on. The government minimum should be based on independently calculated figures, based on the cost of living.
Noting that £8.75 was still 55p short of the “real” Living Wage, and £2 short for those living in London, she said: “That’s more than £1,000 less than UK workers need to cover the basics, and nearly £4,000 less for Londoners.
“Millions of key workers who are vital in the fight against Covid-19 are paid the government minimum – and it’s not enough for them to live on.”
Ms McEvoy urged employers to “step up” and ensure that everyone can earn “at least” a real living wage.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that the pay rise would make a real difference to more than a million low-paid workers across the country.
“Many care staff are on the minimum wage. They’re looking after the elderly and vulnerable in the most challenging of circumstances and deserve every penny,” he said.
“All employers must ensure their staff get the legal increase next week.”
The decision to go ahead with the wage rise came as GMB London declared victory in securing the higher London Living Wage for 600 outsourced NHS staff in King George’s and Queens Hospitals in east London.
Ms McEvoy said after that success: “All those who provide vital NHS services should be brought back in-house so they are paid the same and receive the same terms and conditions as the directly employed staff.”
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