‘One in four people in Chichester constituency earn less than living wage’

TUC members protesting about low pay in Chichester SUS-150227-160825001
TUC members protesting about low pay in Chichester SUS-150227-160825001

FAMILIES are facing a ‘pay catastrophe’ after figures showed a quarter of people in the area are earning less than the living wage.

Chichester resident John Ball made the claim after teaming up with Laurie Heselden for the TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight campaign to keep the attention on Britain’s cost of living crisis with new figures showing zero-hours contracts are on the rise.

With 25 per cent of all workers in the Chichester constituency earning less than the living wage in April, 2014, Mr Ball said it was time for action.

“This city is lazily characterised by many as affluent but the government’s own data shows that there is a chronic problem of low pay in Chichester,” he said.

Mr Ball said the problem was made even worse because of zero-hour contracts.

“The living wage is calculated to be the minimum hourly income necessary to permit a decent standard of living,” he said.

“The figures for workers in Chichester that earn less than the living wage are disturbing.

“But when we combine those figures with the massive insecurity of zero hours contracts the outcome is a pay catastrophe for many hard working people and families.

“The sad truth is that for very many workers in Chichester low paid work is a way into poverty, not a way out of poverty.”

Campaigners say zero-hours contracts fail to offer workers job security and make it difficult to save.

Official figures released at the end of last month showed 697,000 people nationally were employed on zero-hours contracts from October to December, 2014.

However, the Office for National Statistics said the number of people without a guaranteed minimum number of hours was 1.8 million in August last year – meaning the overall scale of the problem could be much bigger.

“It’s really about trying to get fairness and people being treated fairly at work,” said Mr Ball.

“Recognising the long term impact of zero-hours contracts on individuals and the economy as a whole.”

Mr Heselden, TUC regional policy and campaigns officer for London, South East and East of England, described the problem as a ‘curse’.

“I am sure Chichester wants the reputation of being a great place to live and work,” he said.

“But that reputation is being damaged as so many people that work in the city and surrounding areas suffer poverty pay.”

However, campaigners hope the wheels of change are now in motion with meetings being organised with top church leaders and other influential figures.

Mr Heselden said they hope to form local coalitions calling on employers to give all workers ‘fair pay’.

The living wage was £7.65 at the time of the study.

It is now thought to be £7.85 for the South East whereas the minimum wage currently stands at £6.50 for those aged 21 and above.