Unions call on businesses to back £7.20 hourly wage
Union organisers in the South West are calling on employers to increase wages in order to stimulate the local economy.
According to South West TUC, companies should be paying their employees at least £7.20 an hour instead of the current national minimum wage of £6.08. It contends the gesture would boost economic growth and morale amongst workers.
While Westcountry business leaders welcomed the move overall they urged caution over a "one-size fits-all" approach to wages.
The call from unions comes after trade unionists from across the region gathered on Saturday in Bristol for their regional council meeting.
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High on the agenda was a talk about a successful campaign by the union to introduce the living wage at Newcastle City Council.
The TUC said the living wage was calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK.
Nigel Costley, regional secretary for the South West TUC, said it was time other areas followed the Newcastle example.
He said: "Now is the time for a living wage to be introduced in the South West.
"What the local economy needs is a boost and encouraging consumer spending, particularly among low-paid workers, is a good way to do it.
"A living wage would close the gap between luxury pay at one end of the scale and poverty pay at the other.
"Paying the living wage is good for business, good for the individual and good for society."
Mr Costley said the union was looking to big employers in the public and private sector to make the first move in the hope smaller firms would follow their lead.
He said: "By and large smaller businesses pay a better rate for a decent day's work than the larger employers do, so this shouldn't affect smaller firms."
Tim Jones, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said: "In principle we broadly welcome this policy by the unions because it will obviously feed into the local economy and will benefit all.
"However, there are some sectors – retail and construction being the main ones – who are really struggling and the moment and any increases could bring problems.
"A sliding-scale is needed as opposed to a one-size fits-all approach."